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Capitol Update – Biennial Budget Process

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As the Wisconsin weather heats up, so has activity at our State Capitol. New legislation is constant and public hearings are happening almost daily. Meanwhile, the Joint Finance Committee has been meeting frequently, crafting the state budget piece by piece.

Similar to the last budget process, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) chose to revert the Governor’s budget back to base level funding to “start from scratch.” They also removed policy-change items that could be taken up as separate legislation. They have been meeting weekly to review the budgets of all state agencies. At this point, it seems likely that the budget bill will be ready for the scheduled budget floor period at the end of June.

In the budget, PIA has advocated for appropriate levels of funding for the Office of the Commission of Insurance (OCI) that will allow sufficient staffing and robust financial oversight of admitted carriers.  Wisconsin OCI is one of the most efficient insurance regulatory agencies in the nation. Keeping them properly funded will help to ensure prompt response times and the completion of responsibilities required to maintain NAIC accreditation. Without NAIC accreditation, the Federal Trade Commission and other federal agencies could assume regulatory authority over the insurance industry in Wisconsin.

In addition, PIA is also backing budget funding for broadband expansion in the State of Wisconsin. Expanding broadband is good for agencies in more rural portions of the state and is important for the state’s economy generally. Making sure that all of Wisconsin is connected is fundamental infrastructure for the state’s future.

It is now June, and JFC members have commented that they foresee the finishing touches being put on the budget before the end of the month. However, what Governor Evers will line-item veto, or whether he will veto the entirety of the budget at the end of the process is largely unknown at this point.

In other news, PIA is pleased that SB 160, relating to data cybersecurity was taken up yesterday on the Senate floor and passed unanimously on a voice vote. The bill will need to clear a vote in the Assembly next before making its way to the Governor’s desk.