The legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, led by Democrats, met for a final time Tuesday prior to Republicans taking control of the budget writing panel in the next legislative session. A state Public Service Commission request, requiring increased contributions from Wisconsin utilities for energy efficiency and renewable resource programs, was passed in the last session of the current committee. Contributions from utilities are currently 1.2 percent of their revenues. The change sets annual dollar amounts: $100 million for next year would increase to $256 million by 2014.
Outgoing Republican member, Representative Phil Montgomery, asked the panel not to approve the request. “This is not a ‘gotcha’ . . . I am asking to have this put off, to work in the legislature in a bipartisan fashion, to get this done properly,” said Montgomery. “It seems to me that you are sending the exact wrong signal, as to where we want Wisconsin to go,” said Representative Robin Vos, a Republican who’ll take over as JFC co-chair next session. “But then again maybe that’s why the elections turned out the way we did.” Vos said the action amounts to a $740 million increase for ratepayers – and he predicted Republicans will overturn it in the next budget. “Luckily, things in January will be changing,” he said. “We have the ability to roll t back in the budget.”
“That investment will pay for itself two-to-one, with over a billion dollars in savings,” claimed state Senator Mark Miller, a Monona Democrat and outgoing JFC co-chair.b The proposal passed on a 11-4 partisan vote.
In other action, the panel:
Approved $5.4 million for the Office of the State Public Defender to address a shortfall in a reimbursement fund for private attorneys who take on public defender cases. The JFC also approved $4.25 million in program revenue to the Department of Children and Families for child support enforcement activities by child support agencies, $12 million to the Department of Health Services to address a projected shortfall in MA benefits appropriation, and $2.3 million in program revenue to the Department of Public Instruction for pupil assessment costs.
Approved a modified five-year plan for the Department if Children and Families YoungStar program, and approved expansion of the FamilyCare program into Langlade and Lincoln counties.