Budget Blog – JFC Dumps Governor’s DOT Budget, UW Reforms, and Prevailing Wage Repeal

April 6, 2017

The Joint Committee on Finance released its budget procedures memo on Thursday outlining what items they will consider from the governor’s budget and what items they are rejecting.

JFC stripped all 83 non-fiscal policy items out of Gov. Walker’s budget proposal, including many proposals popular with conservatives like prevailing wage repeal and numerous reforms for the UW System and K-12 education.

While removing some policy items from the governor’s budget is routine, this time JFC removed all of them – a rare move, especially with a governor of the same party. This is just the second time in 25 years that JFC stripped all non-fiscal policy proposals from a governor’s budget.

In addition, JFC scrapped Walker’s transportation budget entirely, choosing to ignore the agency request and the governor’s proposal. Instead, the committee will start from scratch on the contentious question of how to fund the state’s transportation system. This is the first time in ten years that JFC has scrapped an entire portion of the governor’s budget.

JFC will be using a method called “base-year doubled” budgeting in building a transportation budget, which simply means taking this year’s level of funding and doubling it to see what a cost-to-continue scenario would look like over the next biennium. This technique was used last summer (with other alterations) to create the illusion of a billion-dollar transportation deficit, which started the gas tax debate. MacIver’s analysis of that dubious math can be found here.

The 83 non-fiscal policy items JFC stripped from the governor’s budget will be drafted as individual bills separate from the budget. JFC co-chairs Rep. John Nygren and Sen. Alberta Darling both indicated some could be put back into the budget after each gets a public hearing. However, many of the conservative policy items were important to balancing out the governor’s proposed spending increases – both fiscally and politically.

Some of the more notable items JFC removed include:

  • DPI – Elmininate required hours of instruction for public schools
  • DPI – Eliminate requirement for monthly school board meetings
  • SPS – Create occupational license review council
  • UW – Segregated fees opt out
  • UW – Three year degrees
  • UW – Credit transfer program
  • UW – Faculty workload reporting
  • UW – Freedom of expression
  • Repeal prevailing wage
  • Project labor agreements

For the rest of the budget, JFC will use the governor’s proposal as its starting point, including Walker’s K-12 education proposal. There had been concerns that the committee would also start from “base-year doubled” for K-12, which could have meant less aid compared to the governor’s plan.