· Legislative Session
Both the State Senate and the State Assembly were on the floor this month, but only dealt with limited calendars. Both houses adopted an amendment to the constitution relating to bail imposed on defendants awaiting trial, as well as a resolution to create an advisory referendum to be held at the April non-partisan election on the issue of whether individuals receiving public assistance should be subject to a work requirement. The proposed constitutional amendment will also go before voters (to approve or deny) in April.
· Protasiewicz with Early Supreme Court Fundraising Lead
The first campaign finance reports for WI Supreme Court candidates were due earlier this month, and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz reported raising $756,000 in the last 6 months of last year, more than doubling her next closest competitors. Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow raised $306,000, former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly raised $312,000 and Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell raised $115,000. The four face off in a primary in February, with the top two vote getters moving on to the April General Election. While the Supreme Court is nonpartisan, its members do loosely line up along ideological lines, with Conservatives holding a 4-3 advantage. For Conservatives to maintain their majority, either Dorow or Kelly would need to win the April Election.
· Legislative Republicans circulate Tax Proposals
Legislative Republicans have proposed two bills early this session focusing on tax cuts, fulfilling campaign promises from last fall. Earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu circulated a bill that would phase in a flat tax over the next four years. The State currently has four income tax brackets, and if this bill were to pass, everyone in Wisconsin would be paying a rate of 3.25%, down from 7.65%, which is what taxpayers in the upper bracket are currently paying. Governor Evers has said he does not support this proposal, although he is likely to introduce his own income tax relief proposal in his budget bill.
Republicans have also re-introduced legislation to eliminate the personal property tax in Wisconsin. While Evers vetoed a bill to repeal the personal property tax last session, Republicans hope a compromise on the issue can be reached this session.
· Medicaid Budget SurplusThe Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recently announced the state’s Medicaid program is now projected to finish the fiscal year with a $774.8 million surplus, roughly $270 million more than what was expected late last year. Former DHS Secretary Karen Timberlake, who stepped down from her post earlier this month, attributed the surplus to several factors, including the federal government’s continuation of enhanced reimbursement rates and reduced costs for prescription drugs. Given the nearly $300 million upper to the Medicaid fund, the state is expected to finish the current fiscal year with an overall budget surplus of close to $6.9 billion.