Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance wis

wis tax
Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance
401 North Lawn Avenue • Madison, WI 53704-5033
www.wistax.org • 608.241.9789 • fax: 608.241.5807
Contact: Todd A. Berry or Stephanie Rubin
608.241.9789 or [email protected]
December 2, 2014
Influencing Wisconsin Government Starts With Budget
WISTAX Offers People’s Guide to State Budget
MADISON—Work on the state’s new budget for 2015-17 is underway. More than in most states, Wisconsin’s
two-year budget is a “catch-all.” Over 1,000 pages long, it covers not only taxes and spending but a variety of other
issues ranging from schools and higher education to prisons, health care, and transportation. It even includes items
that in other states would be considered as separate bills.
“Wisconsin’s state budget is the one bill that has to pass,” notes Todd A. Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). “If citizens want to influence government here, the first, last, and perhaps only place to
go is the budget. That’s what led us to prepare a people’s guide to the state budget and its development.” WISTAX
is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization devoted to public policy research and citizen education.
The new WISTAX report, entitled “State Budget: Process and Issues,” pulls back the curtain on the state budget
process, giving people the information they need to understand and influence budget decision-making.
The budget process begins in the summer of even-numbered years and continues until the bill becomes law.
Since the new biennium begins on July 1 of odd-numbered years, the goal is to have a budget signed into law before
then. Thus, the 2015-17 state budget process began in the summer of 2014 and, barring delay, will end July 1, 2015.
The road to budget enactment has multiple twists and turns involving a number of actors:
■■ Budget Instructions. The governor kicks off the process, usually in May or June of even-numbered years, by
issuing to state agencies instructions which set out guidelines for them to follow in preparing their tax and spending
requests for the coming two years.
■■ Agency Requests. State law requires agencies to submit requests to the state budget office by September 15.
■■ November 20th Report. The Department of Administration (DOA) combines all agency requests into a
single report, adds the Department of Revenue’s (DOR) revenue estimates for the current fiscal year and forthcoming
biennium, and releases the document on November 20th. The report provides the first look at state finances in the
coming biennium, and is used by the governor as the basis for his spending recommendations.
The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, founded in 1932, is the state’s oldest and most respected private government-research organization. Through its research,
publications, civic lectures, and school talks, WISTAX aims to improve Wisconsin government through citizen education. Nonprofit, nonpartisan, and
independently funded, WISTAX is not affiliated with any group—national, state, or local—and receives no government support.
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December 2, 2014
■■ Governor’s Budget. Along with the November report, the governor draws on several other resources to
prepare his budget. The governor delivers the biennial budget message to the legislature by the last Tuesday in
January, although governors may request a delay from the legislature.
■■ Legislative Review. Before the budget bill reaches the assembly or senate floor, it is first reviewed and revised
by the Joint Committee on Finance. The JCF has broad authority to consider all bills related to expenditures and
revenues prior to their passage by the legislature.
■■ Assembly and Senate. Once the JCF passes the bill, it is presented to the legislature for consideration. As with
any other bill, the budget must be passed in identical form by both the assembly and senate if it is to become law.
■■ Governor’s Action. The governor’s signature is required for a budget bill to become law. However, he has
the power to remove or modify items from the bill before signing it. Any veto can be overturned by a two-thirds
vote in both the senate and assembly.
With briefings and hearings scheduled throughout the process, and multiple parties involved in the budget’s
development, citizens have many opportunities to influence the state budget. Whom to contact and how to do so
depends on the budget’s stage of development. The WISTAX report offers nonpartisan suggestions.
A free copy of The Wisconsin Taxpayer magazine, “State Budget: Process and Issues,” is available by visiting
www.wistax.org; emailing [email protected]; calling 608.241.9789; or writing WISTAX at 401 North Lawn Ave.,
Madison, WI 53704-5033. o
(Editor’s Note: An electronic version of this release is available at www.wistax.org.)