Budget Blog – Agency Briefs Day Two

March 29, 2017

On the second day of agency briefs, JFC took up Department of Justice, Veterans Affairs, Health Services, Children and Families, Revenue, WEDC, and Transportation. The hearings started at 9 am on Wednesday and went straight to 11:30 pm.

Committee members did not go easy on any of the agency heads, but AG Brad Schimel probably had it the toughest. Each committee member gets 10 minutes to speak to each department head, and the four Democrats attacked Schimel for their full 40 minutes.

“[When I went around to everyone’s offices] I got a commitment from both Democrats and Republicans that no one is going to play politics with veterans’ issues and that was great to hear,” VA Secretary Dan Zimmerman said during his brief. Regardless, his briefing was still tense and he had to address some aggressive questions about what corrective actions he’s been taking within the department.

DHS Secretary Seemeyer talked about how Wisconsin rejected the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, yet has one of the lowest rates of uninsured individuals in the country. Sen. Jon Erpenbach pointed out that people who work full-time making minimum wage would not qualify for Medicaid, and Seemeyer explained how the Obamacare exchanges were designed to help them.

Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson came well prepared with the facts to back up her positions. Sen. Jon Erpenbach challenged her on why people need to wait until they’re married and 21 to have kids, and she stood her ground.

During the Department of Revenue brief, Rep. Dale Kooyenga demonstrated how cutting tax rates in Wisconsin has led to increased revenues.

Despite constant controversy and Democrat criticism, the WEDC brief went smoothly and was one of the more civil parts of the day.

Finally came DOT Secretary Dave Ross. JFC Co-Chair John Nygren was particularly combative, arguing for the need to increase revenues for highways. Ross explained the feds provide a match on funds Wisconsin puts into highways, but we’ve reached the limit. Every additional dollar the state puts into highways will not get a federal match. The entire JFC seemed committed to increasing highway funding, and were determined to get Ross to agree with that idea. He did not.