On April 21, the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance passed an amendment to the state budget bill that creates up to a $0.75 monthly surcharge on each of an estimated 6.9 million wireless and landline telephones in the state. Motion #85 outlines the provisions of a grant program that, among other things, would allow local governments to recoup costs for certain geospatial data and technologies used in 911 systems.
On page four of the motion, eligible expenses include “…computer-aided design(CAD)/computer systems, GIS functions including computerized geographical information including street centerlines, natural features, commonly identified named facilities, ortho-rectified photography, and oblique imaging…”
An interesting aspect of the motion is the creation of a 911 advisory board comprised of numerous public safety officials, representatives nominated by the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, the Wisconsin Counties Association, and several other organizations. There is no mention of any geospatial leadership on the proposed board.
In addition, a new 911 coordinator position would be created within the Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC would be required to monitor revenue generated by the surcharge, and would be responsible for reporting all receipts and expenditures to the legislature in February of each odd-numbered year.
Funding from a bill passed in 2003 established a similar surcharge, but only on wireless telephones. As a result of the 2003 bill, approximately $7 million was reimbursed to 68 of the state’s 72 counties for some of the costs of acquiring geographic data such as digital orthophotos, the mapping of street centerlines and addresses, emergency and administrative boundaries, trail locations, and land ownership parcels, along with hardware and software to store and display the data.
While this is potentially good news for local governments seeking funds to support geospatial data development, much work remains. Although passage seems likely given the current dominance of Democrats in the Capitol, the entire budget bill must first pass the Joint Committee on Finance, the state Senate, the Assembly, and then be signed into law by Governor Doyle. If the state budget is passed by July 1, the new surcharge would take effect on October 1, 2009.
If passed, the surcharge will generate an estimated $102.6 million over the next two years. It’s currently unknown what proportion of the $102.6 million would be available for geospatial activities.