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Legislative Update

Gov. Evers signs budget into law with numerous partial vetoes

by | Jul 5, 2023 | Legislative Update Blog, State Budget

Governor Tony Evers today signed a state budget he labelled “imperfect and incomplete” with over 50 partial vetoes of particular line items.

Related to K-12 education provisions, the governor used his veto to provide $325 per pupil revenue adjustments into future years beyond the 2023-25 budget (bolded below). We will provide more details as we learn more about how this was accomplished. Below is the full text on K-12 provisions included in the governor’s veto message:

“Building on our historic progress in fully funding our public schools, this budget and 2023 Wisconsin Act 11 provide an overall increase of nearly $1.2 billion in spendable authority for public school districts, including state categorical aids. This increase will be more than ten times larger than what the increase in spendable authority was for public school districts in the 2021-23 biennium.

“While this is progress compared to the last biennium, this budget is well short of my proposed level of spending for our schools. We must continue to work to prioritize school funding during this biennium and into the future. This budget is an important step toward meeting our ultimate goals for our schools and our kids.

• The 2023-25 biennial budget increases the level of state support from 67.8 percent in fiscal year 2022-23 to an estimated 68.8 percent in fiscal year 2023-24 and 69.4 percent in fiscal year 2024-25. These will be the highest levels of state support for school districts since the calculation was initiated in fiscal year 1996-97 under the state’s former “two-thirds” funding goal.

• This historic investment is generated by a $325 per pupil increase on revenue limits in each fiscal year, in addition to an increase in the low revenue ceiling from $10,000 to $11,000 per pupil in the first year of the biennium. This is the largest increase in statewide revenue limit authority since revenue limits were first imposed on K-12 schools in 1993-94, and it is permanent and basebuilding.

Through my veto, in future biennia and effectively in perpetuity, school districts will have continued, additive per pupil revenue adjustments of $325 every year, sustaining school district spending for years to come. This veto provides school districts with a level of budgeting certainty that they have not experienced since the statutory indexing mechanism for the adjustments was deleted in 2009-10.

• These record-high per pupil revenue limit increases also have the potential to take the burden off community members when it comes to school funding, as it reduces the need for districts to seek operating referenda.

• Estimates show more than half of the state’s 421 school districts would be able to use the low revenue ceiling increase in fiscal year 2024-25, meaning that countless students across the state will be able to attend schools that are better able to ensure that they have the staff, facilities, and resources they need to succeed.

• Every kid has the right to a quality education, regardless of their ability, yet Wisconsin, like many other states across the nation, has faced a special education staffing crisis. This budget:

  • Provides $97 million GPR over the biennium to achieve a special education reimbursement rate of 33.3 percent each year, which is the highest reimbursement rate our state has seen in over 20 years; and 
  • Invests $4.6 million GPR over the biennium for high-cost special education aid, increasing the reimbursement rate of these programs from its current 39.5 percent to 45 percent in 2023-24 and 50 percent in 2024-25. This aid helps school districts pay a portion of their eligible special education costs for pupils with specific and elevated educational needs.

• Wisconsin’s strength lies in its diversity, which is why this budget provides $3 million GPR over the biennium for bilingual-bicultural aid. This will be the largest biennial increase in bilingual-bicultural aid in at least 30 years, ensuring that English language learners are properly supported and receive an education that addresses their specific language needs.

• Wisconsin’s students can’t succeed in the classroom if they can’t get to school, which is why this budget provides $5.9 million GPR over the biennium to increase the reimbursement rate for high-cost transportation aid to 75 percent in each year and increases the state reimbursement rate to districts transporting students 12 miles to and from school from $375 to $400, beginning in fiscal year 2023-24. These investments will provide better access to school transportation to students in rural and isolated areas.

• I have been working to address literacy issues since long before being elected Governor, and improving reading outcomes remains a top priority for me. This budget makes a significant investment in improving our kids’ reading skills by providing $50 million GPR to fund a new literacy initiative.

• Earlier this year, I declared 2023 the Year of Mental Health in Wisconsin because I know our kids can only achieve their full and best potential when they can bring their full and best selves to the classroom. To address the mental health crisis facing our kids, this budget provides $30 million GPR over the biennium to continue funding for school-based mental health modeled on my “Get Kids Ahead” initiative, helping schools provide needed mental health services to their pupils through community partnerships.

• The budget increases state funding by $1.2 million GPR over the biennium to fully fund the state’s sparsity aid program for eligible districts in both fiscal year 2023-24 and fiscal year 2024-25.

• The budget increases state funding by $14 million SEG over the biennium for school library aids.”

We will provide more details and analysis here and on Friday’s Cap Chat of the governor’s vetoes as we review the statutory language.

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