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Legislative Update

Today is Election Day, Be Sure to Vote

Voters will go to the polls today to select their choices for several state Constitutional offices including Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Treasurer.  Voters will also decide who will be Wisconsin’s U.S. Senator for the next six years and will select the winner in each of Wisconsin’s eight congressional seats, including an open seat in the third Congressional District in Western Wisconsin.

All seats in the state Assembly and the odd-numbered seats in the state Senate are on the ballot. Voters will also decide who will fill seven open seats in the state Senate and twenty-five open seats in the state Assembly, meaning there will be seven brand-new state senators and as many as twenty-five brand new state representatives in January. (Two sitting state representatives are running in what are new seats for them due to redistricting.)

Republicans will maintain solid control over the state Legislature. However, a key question to be decided is whether Republicans can garner a two-thirds supermajority in both houses and thus be able to override a gubernatorial veto with solely GOP votes. To achieve a two-thirds majority in the state Senate, Republicans only need to pick up one seat. Republicans would need a net gain of five seats to reach two-thirds (66) of the seats in the 99-member state Assembly.

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Thirty-nine school district borrowing referenda on Nov. 8 ballot

There will be 39 school district referenda on the Nov. 8 ballot seeking authority to borrow money for capital projects (school facilities).  That is in addition to the 35 such questions that have already gone before school district voters this year. (Twenty-five of those earlier referendums were approved for a passage rate of just over 71 percent.)

The 166 school district referendum questions of all types placed before voters in 2022 is the highest total number since calendar year 2000, when 192 school district referenda of all types took place. (That 2000 total was prior to restrictions being placed on when school district referenda cold take place and how many times a district could place referendum questions before voters in a calendar year.)

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Wisconsin’s state and local tax burden: lowest level in at least a generation

From the Wisconsin Policy Forum: “As the pandemic and the resulting recession hit in 2020, Wisconsin’s state and local tax burden fell to its lowest level in at least a generation, new data from the U.S. Census Bureau show. Despite the decrease in tax revenues as a share of income in Wisconsin, the state’s tax ranking compared to other states actually became somewhat less favorable. That’s likely due to tax collections in other states being hit harder by COVID-19. Wisconsin’s tax burden, however, remains below the national average despite the state receiving less from fees and federal aid.”

Read the report: State Tax Burden Drops Yet Again

This new report follows one released in November 2021 detailing that over the past 20 years, almost no state has seen a greater drop in its tax burden than Wisconsin, which also saw its ranking among states fall from fourth to the middle of the pack. Depending on how it is measured, the drop in Wisconsin’s state and local taxes as a share of personal income was the largest or nearly the largest nationally since 1999. 

Record state surplus confirmed, should enable more school funding in next state budget

The State of Wisconsin ended its Fiscal Year on June 30, 2022, with a record positive balance of $4.30 billion, according to the new state Annual Fiscal Report released today by the state Department of Administration. That report also confirms that Wisconsin has a record $1.73 billion in its Budget Stabilization Fund (a/k/a “Rainy Day” Fund).

New data shows state income and sales tax collections grew faster than expected in FY2022, propelling the state’s general fund surplus to never-before-seen levels. Taxes flowing into Wisconsin’s general fund grew by 5 percent over the previous year (or just under $1 Billion). In January 2022, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau had projected general fund tax collections, which come principally from income and sales taxes, would fall by 3.2 percent. read more…

DPI releases districts’ certified 2022-23 general school aid amounts

The Department of Public Instruction today released certified state general school aid amounts that each school district will receive during the current (2022-23) school year. By law, the DPI must certify these aid amounts by Oct. 15 each year.

General school aids are the largest form of state support for PreK-12 schools in Wisconsin and are based student counts and year-end financial data from the prior school year (i.e., 2021-22).  The bulk of general school aids comes in the form of equalization aid, which is distributed according to a formula that takes into account local differences in property wealth per pupil. 

Although the overall amount of general aid being distributed is higher than last year, because the way the equalization aid formula affects the distribution of general aid, not all districts will share equally. Of the 421 public school districts in Wisconsin, 295 will receive more aid than last year (70 percent); 121 will receive less (29 percent). read more…

Number of revenue limit referenda in 2022 reaches all-time high

There will be 42 school district referenda on the Nov. 8 ballot seeking authority to increase revenue limit authority.  That is in addition to the 50 such questions that have already gone before school district voters this year.  We believe the 92 referendums seeking additional operating revenues is the highest total ever in a single calendar year.  The highest previous total in a calendar year was 82, set in 2000 and equaled in 2001. 

The large number of revenue limit referenda is not surprising given the recent history of a frozen revenue limits and high inflation.  There has been no per pupil increase in revenue limits in six of the past eight years and revenue limits were frozen for both the 2021-22 an 2022-23 school year. 

When you add in the 74 ballot questions asking for authority to issue debt for facilities related projects, the total number of school district referendum questions is the highest it has been since calendar year 2000, when 192 school district referenda of all types took place. (That 2000 total was prior to restrictions being placed on when school district referenda cold take place and how many times a district could place referendum questions before voters in a calendar year.) read more…

Report: Unfunded special education costs burden Wisconsin school districts, divert funds from general education for all students

A new report from the Education Law Center finds Wisconsin school districts collectively faced a bill of $1.25 billion in unfunded special education costs in the 2019-2020 school year, even after accounting for state special education reimbursement and federal IDEA funds.

The report calls on the State to significantly boost the reimbursement rate for special education to enable districts to retain revenue in the general fund and increase spending on essential programs and services for all students.

Statewide, unfunded special education costs borne by Wisconsin school districts have grown from $1.03 billion in the 2015-16 school year, a figure reported by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. read more…

John Ashley statement on DPI budget request

WASB Applauds Proposal to Invest in Education

“We commend the state superintendent for calling for the investment of state funds into our local public schools, and specifically into special education, student mental health and providing flexible, spendable dollars that can be directed at the local level by school boards.

“These resources are vital to the mission of public school districts to serve all students and ensure they are college and career ready. read more…

DPI submits $2.5 billion state budget request for schools

State Superintendent Jill Underly has submitted the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) 2023-25 state budget request for funding public schools and libraries. This is the official beginning of the state budget process for public schools as this request sets the marker that the next governor will work from in proposing his budget early next year. This comes on the heels of Gov. Evers and State Supt. Underly releasing initial priorities last week.

From the DPI Press Release:

“The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction today requested $2.5 billion in its 2023-25 biennial budget submission to the Wisconsin Department of Administration. The biennial budget request includes, but is not limited to, funding for the following: read more…

Governor, State Supt. release K-12 state budget priorities

Today, Governor Tony Evers and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jill Underly released a K-12 education state budget plan that focuses on “improving reading and literacy outcomes, expanding access to student mental health services and school nutrition, providing financial literacy and out-of-school programming, addressing the staffing shortages to help keep class sizes small, and increasing per pupil and special education aids while holding line on property taxes”.

The plan provides an increase of nearly $2 billion for public schools at a time when stronger than expected tax collections have created a projected $5 billion state surplus. According to the release, that will allow for an increased investment in K-12 education without raising property taxes. read more…

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