Friday, June 07, 2013

Sen. Tom Tiffany's E-Update

June 7th, 2013

Joint Committee on Finance Finished with Budget

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) finished its review of Governor Walker's proposed budget.  The process began back in February when the governor proposed  his 2013-2015 biennial budget.  The JFC held four hearings throughout the state and accepted letters and emails from all Wisconsinites who wanted to share their opinions on the proposed budget.  The JFC took the concerns and ideas they heard and with them, made revisions.  After many long weeks of rigorous debate, the JFC completed their thorough review and changes on Wednesday morning.  The altered budget will now go before both houses of the Legislature.  Once a budget is agreed upon, it will go to Governor Walker's desk for final review and passage.
Although the budget is not perfect, it does protect taxpayers, families, and our most vulnerable.  Additionally, this budget will improve the business climate and take Wisconsin out of the top ten highest-taxed states.  Some highlights include:
  • $654 million tax cut--one of the largest in state history
  • Additional per pupil increase of $150 in 2013-14 and $150 in 20014-15 ($300 total increase) for K-12 funding
  • Addition of $10 million over the biennium for a new high cost transportation categorical aid program that is critical to Northern districts
  • Two year tuition freeze for UW-System schools
  • Redirection of USDA National Forest payments to schools instead of to municipalities (See below)
  • Expansion of school choice (program capped at 500 students in 2013-14 and 1000 in 2014-15)
It is important to remember that these are just some of the changes in the budget.  It is possible for additional changes as both houses take up the legislation.  Governor Walker also has the ability to use his strong veto pen to make any number of alterations.  We are one step closer, but there is still more work to be done.

Securing Federal Funding for Northern Schools

One of the most common critiques I hear about the school funding formula from constituents is that Northern Wisconsin school districts are large, have long bus routes, and smaller population densities to collect per student funding to properly fund transportation and education requirements.  Unfortunately, a lot of land in Northwoods school districts is national forest.  That property cannot be taxed by local governments.  Instead, the governments receive National Forest Income (NFI), which is 25% of the timber harvest revenues on federal forests in Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is the only state in the nation that sends NFI to town governments instead of schools.  I have been working with Reps. Swearingen and Mursau and the JFC to change this, because local governments also are compensated by the federal government through Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILTS).  The shift of NFI funds to schools will not adversely affect local governments, because PILTS will rise proportionally.  This is a good motion that will help improve the long term viability of our northern school districts.  Here is a list of school districts that will be affected by this and what their estimated annual payment is:
School District Name
Federal Forest Acreage
Estimated Annual Payment
Antigo Unified
                               $                                          600
 $                                         352,400
Florence County
 $                                         137,700
Goodman-Armstrong Creek
 $                                            17,500
Lac Du Flambeau #1
 $                                               9,700
 $                                         133,700
Northland Pines
 $                                            16,000
 $                                            60,000
                              $                                         1,100
Suring Public
 $                                         132,000
Three Lakes
 $                                            27,100
Wabeno Area
 $                                         276,400
White Lake
 $                                            70,800

Supper Clubs of the Northwoods

Wisconsin-native Ron Faiola recently released a book--Wisconsin Supper Clubs: An Old Fashioned Experience--which showcases some of the finest supper clubs in the state and shows why supper clubs are such a big part of Wisconsin's food culture.  I am very proud to say our district was very well represented:
  • Maiden Lake Supper Club--Mountain
  • Shaffer Park Resort and Supper Club--Crivitz
  • Mama's Supper Club--Minocqua
  • Norwood Pines--Minocqua
  • White Stag Inn--Sugar Camp
  • Marty's Place North--Arbor Vitae
  • Washington Inn Supper Club--Cecil
While this is not a comprehensive list of the many fine supper clubs found in the district, all of them are deserving of being featured in Ron's book.  Congratulations!

Bald Eagle Numbers on the Rise
A report came out of the Rhinelander DNR office this week that aerial surveys are now underway to count how many young bald eagles hatched this spring.  Similar aerial surveys in April suggest a record number of occupied nests in a record number of counties.
The bald eagle has enjoyed a remarkable recovery in Wisconsin and nationwide since being placed on the state and federal endangered species lists in the 1970s. Wisconsin played an important role in that recovery.

Eagles were removed from Wisconsin's endangered list in 1997 and from the federal list in 2007, although the bird and their nests remain protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. That law prohibits the killing, possession, sale or import of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit.

Deer Trustee Report Meeting with Dr. Kroll Tomorrow in Stevens Point
The Department of Natural Resources will be holding a public meeting at UW-Stevens Point tomorrow in order to share updates and provide a forum to answer any questions regarding the ongoing implementation process of the Deer Trustee Report.  The author of the report and deer specialist, Dr. James Kroll, will be in attendance.

The June 8 meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at UW-Stevens Point Dreyfus University Center, 1015 Reserve Street. Action teams will continue to meet in the afternoon until 3 p.m.

The morning portion of the meeting will be webcasted live online here.  Online participants will have the option to submit questions via their computers for panel response throughout the presentations.

The action teams have met four times since March and will continue to meet June 29 and July 20. Rules will be drafted by DNR based on the action team proposals that will be subject to public hearings this fall. The Natural Resources Board will review comments to make decisions on rule adoption in December.

For more information, visit and search keywords, “Deer Trustee Report.”

Department of Transportation Construction Update
Lincoln County

Highway: US 51
Location: Between Lincoln County K (Merrill) and County S (Tomahawk)
June 10 to early September 2013
Description: Crews will resurface the highway; resurface the interchange ramps at County K and County S; perform routine bridge maintenance on the County S overpass and apply an anti-skid surface to the bridge deck; and repave the highway shoulders.
Traffic impacts: During construction, motorists on US 51 can expect to encounter single lane closures and a reduced speed limit to 55 mph in the work zone. Some flagging operations will be necessary at the interchange ramps.

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