Advocacy Update for Wisconsin Technical Colleges

July 02, 2020

 

2019-20 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

 

The end of the 2019-20 floor session came abruptly and unexpectedly, with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Legislature returned briefly to pass limited pandemic-response legislation, for the most part legislation has been halted. Occasional committee hearings aside, the doors to the Capitol remain locked for two more weeks. A possible July extraordinary session to wrap up the session was being floated as recently as the past two weeks, but, as of this writing, the prospect appears remote. Therefore, this update is being provided as a wrap-up for the 2019-20 Legislative Session.

State Revenues: The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) released its January revenue re-estimates January 23, announcing that state tax collections were expected to exceed prior estimates that formed the basis of the 2019-21 state budget. LFB has since issued two subsequent memos on tax collections, in light of the COVID pandemic and subsequent economic shut down. Drastically lower tax collections were reported by the Department of Revenue, with collections down $870 million in April 2020 compared to April 2019. However, some portion of that was due to state and federal tax filing deadlines being pushed back to July 15 by state and federal COVID response legislation.

May 2020 tax collections data were down $66 million compared with May 2019, showing much greater resiliency than indicated in the April numbers and attributable primarily to a drop in sales tax collections. For the first 11 months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, in total collections were down $380 million compared to the prior year. showed some evidence of recovery, and unemployment numbers edged downward. However, LFB made clear that tax collections for the 2019-20 fiscal year will remain fuzzy until after the July 15 filing deadline, since income and franchise tax payments made by July 15 will accrue to the 2019-20 fiscal year for state budgeting purposes.

At the same time, seasonally adjusted unemployment in Wisconsin was roughly 14% in April 2020, an 11 point jump from the month prior. That marked the sharpest one-month contraction in employment since the data series began in 1976. Although continuing claims for unemployment benefits declined weekly beginning April 18, suggesting that some individuals were already returning to work, initial weekly claims through May still exceeded the average weekly peak experienced during the Great Recession.

Even as some states make draconian cuts, Wisconsin’s legislative leadership and the administration appear content to wait for the LFB’s final word on revenues, and to see whether Congress can agree to another fiscal relief package for the states. In the meantime, the Department of Administration imposed $70 million in lapses on certain state agencies by the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year (including $150,000 taken from the WTCS system office), and re-amortized some state debt, to reduce debt service payments by $66 million in 2019-20. A budget repair bill for Wisconsin could be taken up any time between August 2020 and February 2021, but the most likely timeframe appears to be following the November 2020 general election.

Wrap-up information on bills of interest to technical colleges follows.

 

Free Speech

 

Student Veterans

 

Youth and Registered Apprenticeship

 

Credit Transfer

 

Health Programs

 

Additional bills of interest to technical colleges:

 

For more information on these matters, please contact Layla Merrifield