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Legislative Update

Testifying at a state budget hearing: how to prepare & what to expect

by | Mar 28, 2023 | Legislative Update Blog, State Budget

Before any votes are taken on the state budget, the powerful budget-writing Joint Finance Committee (JFC) holds a series of public hearings at locations around the state. This cycle, the public hearings will be located in Waukesha, Eau Claire, Wisconsin Dells and Minocqua (more details here).

These hearings are a great chance for your board to provide testimony highlighting issues such as the importance of inflationary increases in spendable resources, special education reimbursement, etc. Based on what we are hearing, lawmakers are yet not sold on the need to provide inflationary increases in school funding and, while they understand the need to provide some level of increased resources to schools, they have neither embraced the governor’s proposal nor come up with a number of their own yet. It is of critical importance for public school districts to have a strong presence at these hearings so lawmakers can hear from you as they are deciding what level of investment to make in your school district.

It is also a unique and rewarding experience to present testimony at these hearings and listen to others. Board members who testify also receive WASB member recognition points.

Here are some tips and reminders for how to prepare and what to expect at the site of the hearing:


  • Notify the WASB if you plan to attend and testify at a hearing (this will help ensure you are recognized for your efforts and receive the member recognition points you have earned).
  • If you have never been to a hearing before, it can be helpful to watch portions of past hearings on Wisconsin Eye to get a feel for how a public hearing operates.
  • Even if your local legislator is not on the JFC, if a hearing is held in or near their districts, they will often attend and sometimes even fill in for JFC members.
  • The WASB State Budget webpage includes talking points and other resources on priority budget issues that can be of help as you are preparing testimony.

Arrive Onsite

  • To testify, you will need to fill out a registration slip. There will be signs and likely a line for registering if you arrive early.
  • When you get to the front of the line, fill out your registration and submit it to the Capitol staff at the hearing.
  • Once registered, be prepared to wait (perhaps for several hours) before you are called to testify. In typical years, these hearings attract hundreds of people who wish to speak. Bring work or something else to do while you wait or just sit back and listen to the testimony.
  • People are called to testify in the order they register. In general, the earlier you can get to the hearing site and register, the earlier you will be able to speak.
  • WASB staff will also be present at the hearings to help you register, provide support and answer questions.


  • Because these hearings draw a crowd, a strict time limit (approx. 2 min) will be imposed on individuals testifying. Those testifying as part of a group of three or more are generally given more time (approx. 5 min).
  • If you are able to bring a group and earn more time, you can have one person do all the talking or split it up between members of the group.
  • When you are called to testify, briefly thank the committee for the opportunity to testify and identify yourself and your school district. Keep your comments direct and to the point. Be prepared to lead with your most important issue and provide local examples.
  • A written copy of your testimony can explain your points in greater detail or cover additional points. Written testimony can be submitted to: and all emails will be circulated to the full committee.

Finally, feel a great sense of accomplishment for having participated in your state government as an advocate for the students you serve. Well done!

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