Wisconsin Geospatial News

Legislative committee amends WLIP budget

Board sunset would be 9/1/2005
The Wisconsin Legislature’s budget rewriting committee has approved substantial changes to the Wisconsin Land Information Program’s proposed budget for the next two years. In action taken on May 16, the Joint Committee on Finance (JCF) voted unanimously (16-0) to alter the WLIP budget as originally proposed by Governor Doyle in his state budget bill introduced in the Legislature last February. (see Winter, 2003 issue of the Bulletin).

While the entire legislature can still make changes before forwarding the bill to the governor for his final action, further adjustments to WLIP language seems unlikely.

The JCF approved three significant changes on a motion by Senator Bob Welch and Representative David Ward. These changes all reallocate WLIP program revenue received by the Land Information Board in Madison. This revenue is derived from a portion of the land transaction recording fee collected at county Register’s-of-Deeds offices. The amount received by the Board has averaged slightly over $3 million annually over the past five years.

Soil mapping funding restored
The first piece of approved language contains three provisions:

1) Provide $123,900 each year to support continued development of the Wisconsin Land Information System (WLIS), the Internet-based system designed to link land information data servers across the state. Work on WLIS development was begun this past year by the WI Dept. of Natural Resources through a contract with the WI Dept. of Administration.

2) Add $421,300 total over the two years to insure that sufficient funding is available for base budget grants to counties. The base-budget grant program insures that each county in the state, regardless of amount of recording fee revenue collected, will receive a minimum of $35,000 annually for land records modernization work. This past year 23 counties received base-budget grant awards.

3) Provide a total of $1,330,800 to complete the final two years of the six year state soil-mapping initiative. This six-year project is an agreement between the WLIP and the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service to complete digital soil mapping over the entire state. For the past two state budget cycles, this project has been funded with a combination of WLIP funds ($415,000 annually) and a total of $285,000 annually contributed by three state agencies. The JCF’s adopted language calls for the entire $700,000 annual amount to be supported by WLIP funds.

Comp planning funding altered
The second part of the JCF’s action approved the governor’s recommendation to delete the previously used $1.5 million of state general purpose tax revenue (GPR) for comprehensive land-use planning grants, and replace that amount with WLIP funds. Over the past two years, comprehensive planning has been funded at $3 million per year, $1.5 million from GPR, $500,000 from the WLIP, and $1 million from transportation funds. This action, in agreement with the Governor’s plan, takes $2 million of WLIP funds for comprehensive planning grants. Additionally, in separate action related to the state transportation budget, the JCF eliminated the WI Dept. of Transportation’s $1 million contribution to comprehensive planning, thus reducing the total comprehensive planning funding amount to $2 million annually.

In addition to the funding changes for comprehensive planning, Senator Welch also included language in the amendment requiring that the planning grants using WLIP funds include provisions for using WLIP-created data, and that this information be consistent with WLIP interests, standards and access to planning-support tools.

In the third component, the committee agreed to move a total of $1,626,000 over next two years from the WLIP fund to the GPR fund. Although the JCF adjusted the WLIP significantly, it let stand the Governor’s recommendation to extend the WLIB’s sunset date from September 1, 2003 to September 1, 2005.

Action moves control of WLIS
Finally, in a separate action on June 4 from a motion sponsored by Senators Welch and Ted Kanavas, and Representative Michael Huebsch, the JCF voted 12-4 to include as a duty of the WLIB the approval of all expenditures relating to the development of the WI Land Information System (WLIS). The 12-4 vote was along party lines with the twelve Republicans voting for the motion and the committee’s four Democrats voted in opposition. Currently, all WLIS funding is under the control and direction of the WI Dept. of Administration.

Waiting for the final word
As this newsletter goes to press, the budget is now in the hands of the Legislature for final approval before being sent to the Governor for his approval, disapproval or alteration through the use of line-item veto. At this point it is expected that neither house of the Legislature will make significant changes to the JCF version of the budget, and that each house will individually vote to approve before the end of June.

In keeping with traditions of political rhetoric, the governor is threatening to veto the entire budget to force the Legislature to make changes more to his liking. However, there is a good amount of conventional wisdom indicating the governor will use the less drastic, but highly effective technique of line-item veto to craft budget changes more to his liking, and more in agreement with the original budget he submitted last winter.