Wisconsin Counties Association
The general theme of the Wisconsin Counties Association's policy recommendations to the state is an opposition to diminishing state aid.
State aid has decreased and in the time between 1989-1991, the biennial aids to cities, villages, towns, and counties was 27% of the budget, as compared to the 2007-2009 period when it became 13.5%.
The association believes that county-administered human service program including child welfare, mental health services to elderly, services to the physically disabled and mentally disabled, are underfunded as a result of the high demands these programs create on counties.
The demands are slated to increase as Wisconsin tentatively plans to shift the cost for hospitalizing children and elderly people in state-run psychiatric hospitals to counties at a cost of about $14 million. The state will also cut the following:
- Shared revenue and school aid by 3.1 percent
- Redirect about $100 million in telephone surcharges from counties to municipalities
- Add a $7 per ton surcharge to landfill tipping fees, which will cost cities and villages about $63 million a year.
The WCA's suggestion is for the state and county to pay an agreed-upon percentage of the costs per person for these programs, with the state setting eligibility criteria for these programs. This is so funds are successfully allocated among counties having trouble funding state mandated programs.
Taxes and finances
Updated tax system:The WCA wants less dependence on property taxes and a more modern tax system because of the increased burden on taxpayers (discussed in "Opinions on Wisconsin budget" section).
State sales tax: The organization supports the implementation of a streamlined sales tax. It wants to eliminate certain sales tax exemptions.
Tax levy limits: Tax levy limits imposed by the state means using alternate resources to fund state-mandated services, and the WCA wants flexibility for counties to control these. In the spirit of supporting local control, the WCA also opposes artificial expenditure and revenue caps, seeing that localities should have ultimate say.
The Wisconsin Counties Association wants more local WisDOT money for transportation projects.
It wants the establishment of regional transit authorities. It also wants full funding for the State Highway Maintenance and Traffic Operations Program for maintaining roads. Currently, the system penalizes taxpayers for disputes that arise from poor road quality. WCA wants to repeal the law that makes counties and municipalities liable for damages incurred on state highways.
The association also wants WisDOT to investigate the effectiveness of new legislation placing weight limits on vehicles. It also wants incentives for the state to use alternative fuels.
The WCA wants the administrative rule that protects Wisconsin's shoreland (NR 115) to be amended only when changes include explicit funding sources for implementation.
Phosphorous-containing lawn fertilizer contaminates soil runoff in lakes, and has already been banned in 11 counties. The WCA is pushing for a state-wide ban.
Ordinary high-watermark (OHM)
The association wants counties to have final say on where the ordinary high-watermark is in the case of a discrepancy. The OHM is the place where a body of water meets land that ultimately designates where the state-owned part of the lake ends and where private property can begin.
Working Lands Initiative
The Working Lands Initiative is a plan comprising a system of farm grants and subsidies, and the WCA wants continued state support for the development of this plan.
The proposal is modeled after a Minnesota law that took effect in 2007.
Opponents state it is a heavy burden on the business impacted.
- Wisconsin Counties Association, "2009-2010 Legislative Agenda"
- The Badger Herald, "County health programs may take $60M hit", April 15, 2009
- Journal Sentinel, "Groups urge tax increases, not just spending cuts, to balance budget", May 19, 2009
- Green Bay Press Gazette, "Reduce, reuse, e-cycle", May 15, 2009
- Chicago Tribune, "Wisconsin considers electronic recycling program", June 3, 2009