Wisconsin Counties Association lobbying priorities
- 1 State aid
- 2 Taxes and finances
- 3 Transportation
- 4 Natural resources
- 5 Income maintenance
- 6 Increased funding for circuit courts
- 7 Indigency criteria
- 8 Probation and parole
- 9 Child support
- 10 Emergency calls
- 11 County nursing homes
- 12 Medical assistance funding for jail inmates
- 13 Communicable disease control
- 14 Community Justice Act
- 15 Workforce development
- 16 Wisconsin Way
- 17 Grants to counties
- 18 References
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 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 Income Maintenance Administration Allocation funds local county social services and human services departments. IMAA aid is funded 50% by state dollars and 50% from federal funds and is expected to lose $11 million in the biennium. The WCA wants an annual increase of $4.1 million for the program.
Increased funding for circuit courts
Counties currently receive $18.7 million in circuit court support payments, and the association would like to see an increase.
In Wisconsin, if an individual is found not to be indigent under State Public Defender criteria but is incapable of obtaining counsel, the counsel must be provided by the county. Wisconsin's indigency criteria are based on 1987 AFDC guidelines and the Wisconsin Counties Association wants to update indigency standards annually.
Probation and parole
The Department of Corrections reimburses counties $40 per day for probation and parole holds. If the rate is insufficient to provide complete reimbursement, the DOC is required to prorate the payments to counties. The WCA wants mandatory payments at the full statutory rate.
The 2005 Federal Deficit Reduction Act cut state child support programs by eliminating matching federal child support funds to states for successfully collecting child support. The total loss for Wisconsin's child support program is projected around $25 million annually. To offset this loss, the WCA supports legislation that would provide county child support agencies with an additional $3 million annually.
2003 Wisconsin Act 48 established a three-year grant program funded by a surcharge on wireless service customers in Wisconsin for reimbursing local governments and wireless telephone service providers for providing enhanced wireless 911 emergency call services. The grant and expired in November 2008. The WCA wants to make way in the creation of updated 911 legislation that is standardized and improved and to continue the surcharge of 75 cents a month. The expected revenue would be $59.1 for subsidizing one 911 center in each county.
County nursing homes
Nursing homes are not being reimbursed adequately, according to the Wisconsin Association of Counties. The association wants legislation to require the Department of Health Services to pay county nursing homes a minimum of $37.1 million a year, and for counties to take on the losses of nursing homes.
Medical assistance funding for jail inmates
Federal law states that individuals become ineligible for federal medical assistance benefits while incarcerated, regardless of their conviction status. Once incarcerated, inmates must therefore reapply for benefits.
The WCA supports a change in this policy so that incarceration would lead to a suspension of benefits and not an annulment. Under this system, the date of approval for benefits would be the date of application and the individual covered would be covered upon release.
Communicable disease control
The Wisconsin Counties Association supports legislation that would provide reimbursement for local health officers who are required to immediately investigate all cases and potential cases of communicable disease.
Community Justice Act
The Community Justice Act would be implemented throughout the state to grant funds to localities for correctional sanctions and services.
The WCA supports the federal Workforce Investment Act which aims to develop the work force through government programs.
- Main article: Wisconsin Way
The Wisconsin Counties Association is involved in an effort between associations to find the best way to fund public services.
Organizations joining the WCA in this effort are:
- Wisconsin Education Association Council
- Wisconsin Realtors Association
- Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association
- Wood Communications Group
- League of Wisconsin Municipalities
Grants to counties
Community Aids is the major state funding source to counties for funding mental health services, and also helps support other human and social services. Counties are required to match the state funds for several Medicaid mental health services. This current structure results in the use of more costly or inappropriate services and systems (state mental health institutes, county jails, juvenile correctional institutions).
In 2006, counties provided over $120 million in tax levy for mental health services.
Counties are required to provide and fund juvenile delinquency-related services. To assist in offsetting those costs counties receive Youth Aids funding, although historically, Youth Aids dollars fund approximately half of the costs of providing services to delinquent youth. The current rate is $268 per day. It is expected to lose $11.8 million in the biennium.
The WCA wants an increase in Youth Aids money to counties.
- Wisconsin Counties Association, "2009-2010 Legislative Agenda"
- The Badger Herald, "County health programs may take $60M hit," April 15, 2009
- WKOW 27, "Counties want 75 cent surcharge on every phone line in the state," April 9, 2009
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Lawmakers to weigh plans for 911 call center subsidy," April 18, 2009