Warren Petryk, Representative for the 93rd Assembly District of Wisconsin that covers parts of Eau Claire, Dunn, Pepin, and St. Croix counties, talks about the obstacles and cirucumstances surrounding the balancing of our state budget and his pride in the accomplishments of the legislature during the first 100 days of the new State session in his E-letters to constituents over the past couple of weeks. He also announced the launch of his new legislative web site at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/assembly/petryk/Pages/default.aspx.
Balancing Our State Budget
On Tuesday, April 05, 2011, the State Assembly returned to the session floor to discuss legislation to balance our state budget for the remainder of this fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, Warren said in last week’s update. Originally part of the Budget Repair Bill, Governor Scott Walker included“fiscal” provisions that had to be removed from the legislation due to a lack of a quorum because the Senate Democrats had fled the state. Now, the Legislature was able to come back to the floor and vote on these fiscal items included in Special Session Senate Bill 12.
Though the state revenue estimates showed that Wisconsin had a positive net balance, what was not included in those estimates were two substantial outstanding bills that have to be repaid as soon as possible. This includes the $200 million plus interest that must be repaid to the Patients Compensation Fund. This money was raided by the Democrat controlled legislature in the last biennium to help balance the state’s budget. It was determined by the Supreme Court that this was an illegal action and that the state must repay this money. Also, Wisconsin owes the state of Minnesota roughly $58.7 million for tax reciprocity. This money was due on December 1, 2010, and has yet to be repaid with a daily interest rate is $4,584.
Senate Bill 12 also allows the state to refinance $165 million in bonds. Currently, state law allows for the refinancing of $309 million but this legislation would increase that amount to $474 million. With poor budgeting practices by past administrations, from both sides of the aisle, the state is now being forced to use refinancing of bonds as a tool to deal with our budget shortfalls.
Some constituents have voiced their concerns to me with regards to this legislation including $28 million being returned to the general fund from the Employee Trust Fund. Let me be clear, this is not a raid on the Wisconsin Retirement System. The $28 million is excess money generated by the Group Insurance Board and will be used to reduce employer (the state) cost for providing group health insurance for the second half of the year.
The bill authorizes that $20 million be sent to the Department of Corrections to pay for unbudgeted overtime and administrative costs. The Department sent an outline of overtime and administrative costs to the Joint Finance Committee earlier this year regarding the cost for each of the state’s correctional institutions and it was determined that $20 million would be necessary to cover these overages.
This legislation wasn’t just a necessary step towards balancing our state’s budget; it will put Wisconsin on the right track financially. The Legislature had to act on Senate Bill 12 today to make sure that we met the mid-April refinancing deadline. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 58-36 after it was approved earlier in the day by the Senate, 22-11. Senator Vinehout, amongst others, voted against the measure. Governor Walker signed the bill into law on April 6, 2011, making it 2011 Wisconsin Act 13.
We have now begun the process of establishing the new biennial budget while Wisconsin faces a $3.6 billion deficit. The challenges are many, but I will work hard to establish fiscal responsibility for our state while protecting our most vulnerable citizens; children, elderly, and people with disabilities.
The First 100 Days of the 2011-13 Legislature
Though the first 100 days of this legislative session, and my first term in the Legislature, have been anything but ordinary, I am proud of the work that I, my colleagues, and Governor Scott Walker have completed. Though the decisions we have made may not always been easy, I stand by my work and know that what the Legislature and the Governor have done is putting Wisconsin back on the right track to fiscal certainty and sanity.
I continue to focus my efforts on balancing our states budget and creating jobs in the private sector in Wisconsin. Due to circumstances in our neighboring state of Illinois, we have seen jobs leave their state for greener pastures here in Wisconsin because we have achieved a more business friendly tax climate in our state. To date, 13,000 private sector jobs have been created which include 8,200 jobs in manufacturing (this number does not include statistics for March, 2011).
Since Governor Walkers first day on the job, and the newly elected Legislatures first days of session, the Governor declared a state of economic emergency and called the Legislature into a special session focused on jobs and economic recovery. In roughly a month, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle worked together to pass these proposals. Included in the special session legislation was providing tax breaks for businesses who want to relocate to Wisconsin. We have already seen Illinois based companies take advantage of this. Also included were bills to make it more difficult to sue companies and medical providers, make available more dollars for economic development, and eliminating the state tax on medical health savings accounts.
After all of this, there is still much more yet to be accomplished. Currently there is legislation being passed to create additional enterprise zones, which has always received bi-partisan support. Enterprise zones strive to achieve economic development through refundable tax credits for job creation, retention, training, capital projects, and purchases from Wisconsin-based suppliers. Also, the Legislature is working on our current budget crisis of $3.6 billion by balancing our states next two-year budget. Talks continue to take place around the state and here in Madison to determine where we can find efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars. Lastly, the Legislature is working to offer a comprehensive election reform package. After the last few elections it seems obviously necessary to bring integrity back to Wisconsins election system.
I look forward to the future of this legislative session and working with my colleagues and the constituents of the 93rd Assembly District. Together we can get Wisconsin moving in a positive direction and get people of this state back to work.
You can sign up for Warren’s E-Updates on his Website or by sending him a request at Rep.Petryk@legis.wisconsin.gov.