Wisconsin Geospatial News

Legislation targeting comprehensive planning may have unintended consequences for the WLIP

Politics associated with the longstanding and sometimes controversial “smart growth” initiative in Wisconsin may once again threaten to remove $2 million from the Wisconsin Land Information Program (WLIP).

According to the lobbyist for the Wisconsin Land Information Association (WLIA) and officials from the Department of Administration (DOA), AB371 and SB266 would have a detrimental effect on the WLIP.  Specifically, they believe $2M targeted for comprehensive planning grants would be removed from the WLIP if the bills are ultimately passed into law.  It remains unclear whether removing $2M from the WLIP is intended, or a simple oversight.

According to information I received from DOA, a total of $21.1 million was spent on comprehensive planning grants to communities from 2000 through 2010.  Of that $21.1 million, the WLIP funded $12.8 million.  Land information advocates have argued for many years that the WLIP is not an appropriate source of funding for comprehensive planning.

Since 2010, the $2M has been used for its originally-intended purpose of funding county land information operations.

As of October 15th, nine organizations are registered against AB371 on the Government Accountability Board Website.  Two more are registered as “other” or “undisclosed.”  WLIA is neutral on the matter of comprehensive planning, but against the companion bills due to their expected impact on the WLIP.  (Full disclosure: I am a member of the WLIA Board.)

The recent proposals may sound familiar to anyone who follows the history of comprehensive planning and the WLIP.  Nearly identical proposals (AB303 and SB225) were introduced in the fall of 2011.  The senate version of the bill ultimately failed to pass the Committee on Economic Development and Veterans and Military Affairs.

At this stage, we don’t know how much widespread support there is for AB371 and SB266.  Using 2011/2012 as a guide, this issue could play out over the next six months.