Wisconsin Geospatial News

Governor’s budget recommends statewide geospatial initiatives

Governor Walker’s executive budget bill, containing the governor’s recommendations for appropriations for the 2013-15 fiscal biennium, recommends several important statewide geospatial initiatives. The full text of the proposed budget can be found here. The executive budget, available on the Department of Administration (DOA) Web site, provides more information on the Governor’s recommendations and initiatives.

Below is a brief synopsis of the proposed geospatial initiatives, based on these online documents. 

Reallocation of social security redaction fee to DOA

Under current law, counties may charge an additional $5 per document recorded in the register of deeds office to redact social security numbers so that they are not visible on electronic records. The relevant section of statutes is 59.43which stipulates that this additional $5 fee is to sunset no later than January 1, 2015.

The proposed budget would remove the sunset and reallocate the $5 social security redaction fee to the DOA in 2015 (or earlier if counties stop retaining the fee for redaction activities before 2015).  However, counties would continue to retain $8 for land information if they meet the requirements of the Land Information Program, such as spending the money on land records modernization consistent with a county land information plan and establishment of a land information council.  (See page 624 of the budget bill for exact wording.) 

Reallocated fee directed to create statewide digital parcel map

According to the executive budget documents on the DOA Web site, the goal of reallocating the $5 fee is to support the creation of a statewide digital parcel map. (See section 20 of the DOA document.) Furthermore, the budget bill adds to section 16.967 of statutes requiring the DOA to “establish an implementation plan for a statewide digital parcel map” (p. 119). 

Deer Trustee Report and land cover

The budget bill adds section 29.040 to state statutes authorizing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to “promulgate rules to implement the recommendations contained in the 2012 final report of the assessment of this state’s deer management plans and policies that was conducted under the terms of a contract between the department of administration and a recognized deer management expert” (pp. 37, 424). This is a reference to the Deer Trustee Report by James Kroll, which contains several recommendations for improving geospatial service delivery in the state, including updating the 20-year old WISCLAND land cover map, and the development of a system for delivery of statewide geospatial data.

According to the executive budget documents on the DOA website, the specific intent of this proposal is to implement “multiple programs, outlined in the deer trustee report, to improve the hunting climate in Wisconsin, conduct research and manage chronic wasting disease.” (See section 1 of the DNR document.) This includes reallocating existing expenditure authority and utilizing additional federal funds from the DNR to update the state’s land cover map. (See section 20 of the DOA document.) 

What’s next?

Clearly there are many questions about the details of the Governor’s proposal. The processes to create statewide land cover and parcel maps are not spelled out in the budget bill, such as how the DOA would allocate the additional revenue to create a statewide parcel map.

Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see that the Governor’s proposal explicitly recognizes the importance of geospatial technology for effective governance. As written, the budget bill proposes mechanisms to fund statewide geospatial initiatives while continuing to support the state’s Land Information Program. The proposal recognizes that there is a need to invest in geospatial technology and services to better serve the needs of the state, which is a positive sign for the future.

There is obvious uncertainty over how, or when, any of the Governor’s recommendations will be implemented. For a start, the bill must be passed into law before any provisions can take effect, a process that will take several months. It is certainly possible that specific proposals will be modified during that process. In the meantime I welcome your thoughts and opinions on the details of the budget bill, and more generally the future of geospatial services in the state. The next few months should be interesting as the bill is carefully studied and debated. Stay tuned for further developments as they unfold.