Legislative proposals affect Land Information Program funding Print
By Jim Lacy   
October 10, 2011

Two different bills recently introduced into the Wisconsin legislature affect the funding of the Wisconsin Land Information Program (WLIP)— a long-standing program used by counties to support local land information activities. Senate Bill 225 and Assembly Bill 303 are companion bills aimed at making significant changes to Wisconsin's comprehensive planning law.

Among the various changes proposed, both bills would de-fund $2 million in yearly comprehensive planning program grants available to local governments in Wisconsin. If passed as currently written, the $2 million would be permanently lapsed from the WLIP, and transferred to the state's general fund.

Under the WLIP, all of Wisconsin's 72 counties send $2.00 to the state for every new land deed recorded during the year. A portion of those proceeds are granted back out to counties.  The aim of these so-called "Base Budget" grants is to provide a minimum funding level of $50,000 to enable a county land information office to develop, maintain and operate a basic land information system. 

When the comprehensive planning law was enacted in 1999, the legislation included a provision for a grant program to support local government "smart growth" planning efforts. Grants were initially paid for from Transportation Planning funds.  As a result of Act 16 in 2001, the legislature decided to fund the comprehensive planning grant program from the WLIP.  That move was not popular within the land information community at the time, due to the loss of funds available to directly support land information operations.  Many hoped the funding would someday be restored.  The most recent legislative action would permanently remove funding from the WLIP that might otherwise be used for maintaining land information systems in the state.

Not suprisingly, the new bills have caused much concern among geospatial professionals.  The Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA) published a legislative alert on their Web site on Friday, October 7th. In that statement, they describe the impact of the proposals: "With WLIP fund annual revenues at an average of $2.2-2.3 million over the last 3 years, a $2 million permanent lapse would effectively cripple the WLIP and have the potential to render the Base Budget Grant program obsolete."

First introduced on October 5th, the Assembly bill is scheduled for a public hearing by the Assembly Committee on Urban and Local Affairs on Tuesday October 11th at 10:00 in the state Capitol Building. According to their online schedule, the hearing will be broadcast via the Web on WisconsinEye.

Since this is an issue that has potential impact on many geospatial activities in the state, we created a new "Hot Topic" page in the community section of the SCO Web site.  Watch that page for additional updates and/or links as they become available.