Friday, April 1, 2011

DOA Submits Proposed Budget Revisions/Corrections

After the biennial budget bill is introduced, the executive branch typically submits a letter to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) outlining various modifications and technical changes that the Governor would like the committee to make.  The document is often referred to as an "errata letter." This year the letter from the Dept. of Administration (DOA) was submitted on March 31 and seems particulalry long – an 11-page list of proposed changes “to better reflect the Governor’s intent in preparing the budget.”

Many of the proposed changes correct mistakes and clearly seem to be technical, though in other cases that isn’t clear.  In any event, this post briefly describes some of the requested changes relating to programs for kids and human services, including changes related to school revenue limits, teacher residency requirements, the Well Woman program, a lapse of Dept. of Children and Families (DCF) funding, the Brighter Futures program, and the Medigap Hotline.

Among the many changes requested in the March 31 DOA letter, the following caught my eye:
  • School district revenue limits – The letter says the bill inadvertently repeals the current statutory provision that allows school districts to carry forward unused revenue limit authority from a private year.  According to the letter, that was not the Governor’s intent, and the bill should be amended to retain current law.
  • Teacher residency requirement – DOA says another mistake in the bill is that it fails to include Milwaukee in the provision that prohibits school districts from implementing requirements that a teacher must reside in the district.   The letter seeks an amendment to apply the prohibition to Milwaukee as well.
  • Well Woman program – The letter seeks the restoration of the $222,800 GPR appropriation for the program. 
  • DCF funding lapse – One measure that concerns me, but I need to explore more carefully, is a proposal to lapse an additional $12 million from the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to the General Fund, based on a higher-than-previously-anticipated balance of unspent W-2 and TANF related revenue.   (We'll try to follow up with more information about this recommendation.)
  • Brighter Futures funding – The letter seeks restoration of $865,000 per year that was “inadvertently deleted” from the bill. The intent was to transfer 50% of Brighter Futures funding from DCF to DHS, but not to eliminate all of the program’s DCF appropriation.
  • Medigap Hotline – The DOA letter recommends increasing the program’s appropriation by $147,400 PR to fully fund the program. 
These sorts of proposals aren’t automatically incorporated into the budget bill.  However, as the Finance Committee begins its decision-making, they are typically included among the options outlined by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau within the relevant issue papers, either as part of or along side the Governor's original proposal.  The proposals that are truly technical corrections generally get deferential treatment, while those of a more substantive nature will be examined more carefully.

You can find the full DOA letter here.

Jon Peacock

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