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March 15, 2017

 

State budget bill spotlight: Workforce Development

Next week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) -- the State Legislature's powerful budget-writing committee -- will begin agency briefings on the 2017-19 state budget bill (AB 64 / SB 30), as introduced by Gov. Scott Walker last month. In early April, the Committee will hold several public hearings around the state before they begin to reshape Walker's two-year, $76 billion state spending bill in May. Under state law, the budget bill must be passed and approved by the governor on or before July 1.

The budget bill includes a number of items of interest to WEDA and its members, including provisions impacting the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), workforce development initiatives, new tax policies, and increased support for the University of Wisconsin System. As the budget process continues to unfold in the State Capitol, Political News and Notes will educate WEDA members on key budget items and keep them updated on the latest budget developments.
 
The last edition of Political News and Notes focused on budget initiatives proposed by Gov. Walker relating to WEDC. This edition will focus on workforce development-related provisions included in the current version of the state budget bill.


WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT BUDGET PROVISIONS:

The WEDA Legislative Committee and Board continues to review and discuss the governor's state budget bill and the recently released Legislative Fiscal Bureau budget papers, but WEDA is encouraged by a number of workforce development-related provisions included in the bill:

  • Wisconsin Fast Forward Program – Provides an additional $11.5 million over the biennium for Fast Forward and modifies its existing workforce training programs to allow award grants for the following additional activities:
    • Grants for collaborative projects between school districts, technical colleges, and businesses to provide high school students with industry recognized certifications in high demand professions.
    • Grants for the development of public-private partnerships designed to improve workforce retention through employee support and training.
    • Grants to non-profits, institutions of higher learning, and employers to increase the number of students who are placed in internships with employers.
    • Grants for teacher training programs, including training for teachers in dual enrollment programs.
  • Early College Credit Program - Reform the current Course Options and Youth Options programs to simplify the process for students to gain college credit through a new Early College Credit program. The budget bill provides nearly $3 million over the biennium to reimburse school districts for high school students who take college courses at an institution of higher education, including any school within the UW System or technical college system.
  • Internship Requirement for Bachelor's Degree - Require UW System institutions to require an internship or work experience in order for students to earn a bachelor's degree.
  • Three-Year Degree Programs - Require institutions within the UW System to submit and post statements that are easily accessible on how students can complete a bachelor's degree within three years.

As the state budget process continues to unfold, WEDA welcomes your input on the state budget bill -- including the workforce development budget initiatives listed above. If you have any questions or comments, please contact WEDA at mwelsh@weda.org.

 


 
 
Economic development benefits fraud bill to be re-introduced
 

Wisconsin legislators plan to reintroduce legislation that would make it a felony to defraud the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp (WEDC). The bill is similar to legislation introduced last session, but failed to pass. While WEDA strongly believes fraud should never be tolerated, we have expressed concern the bill could cast a shadow over Wisconsin's economic development environment by subjecting businesses or other parties, such as local EDOs, to criminal penalties for making an honest mistake or failing to meet economic projections.

This session's version of the bill will once again be introduced by Rep. Sam Kerkman (R-Salem) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and would make economic development benefits fraud a Class E felony, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $50,000 fine, or both for any of the following:

  • Intentionally making or causing to be made any statement or representation of a material fact that someone knows is false in any application for a benefit from the WEDC.
  • Intentionally making or causing to be made any statement or representation of a material fact that someone knows is false for use in determining eligibility for a benefit from the WEDC.
  • Having knowledge of the occurrence of any event affecting the initial or continued eligibility for a benefit, concealing or failing to disclose such an event with an intent to fraudulently secure a benefit either in a greater amount or quantity than is due or when a benefit is not authorized.
  • Having applied to receive a benefit from the WEDC for a specific use or purpose and having received it, knowingly and willfully converting any part of the benefit to a use or purpose other than that specified by the WEDC.

In addition to the legislation’s criminal penalties, the proposal would prohibit an individual who commits economic development benefits fraud from receiving economic development benefits from WEDC for 7 years. It would also allow WEDC to bring a civil action to recover damages related to fraud.

However, the bill does include language that was not in the original bill from last session that would hold applicants harmless and exempt them from any
 criminal penalties if they fail to meet performance measures. More specifically, the bill states that a person is not guilty of committing economic development benefits fraud if their predictive statements regarding future financial performance, employment levels, or other performance indicators are not realized in fact.  

WEDA believes the "hold harmless' provision moves the bill in the right direction and should help alleviate fears in the business and economic development community that simple mistakes or failing to meet economic projections could lead to jail time or huge fines.

The WEDA Legislative Committee is continuing to review the bill and our Government Affairs Team will be meeting with lawmakers to see if they are ways to strengthen the "hold harmless" provision, if necessary. If you have any questions or would like to submit your thoughts on the economic development benefits fraud bill, please contact WEDA at mwelsh@weda.org.

 


 
 
WEDA Legislative Tracking: What's happening under the Capitol dome

Nearly three month into the 2017-18 legislative session, hundreds of bills have already been introduced and many more have been proposed. The WEDA Legislative Committee has certainly reviewed its far share of bills this session, from a cell tower siting bill to wetland regulation proposal -- and everything in between.

Most recently, WEDA has acted to support Senate Bill 49, a rural broadband expansion bill that provides over $20 million in new funding to increase access to broadband in rural Wisconsin through the state's Broadband Expansion Grant Program and the Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program. In additional, WEDA has decided to support a  workforce development proposal that would enhance the current Career and Technical Education (CTE) Incentive Grant program that incentivizes school districts to offer high-quality career and technical education programs to address the state’s workforce shortages in key industries and occupations.
Please find below an overview of the CTE grant program bill (LRB-1557):


Under current law, the CTE Incentive Grant program provides grants to Wisconsin schools that offer technical education programs in industries and occupations with workforce shortages. The grants reimburse school districts up to $1,000 for each pupil in the district earning an approved industry-recognized certification. The grant program, funded through the Department of Workforce Development’s Fast Forward program, is capped at $3 million per year. As a result, and due to high participation under the program, grant awards to schools are being prorated. 

Under LRB 1557, the CTE Incentive Grant Program would no longer be funded through Fast Forward and instead would be funded through a separate sum-sufficient appropriation – meaning grant awards would no longer be prorated and schools would receive the full $1,000 per student. In addition, the bill eliminates the current cap that limits awards to one grant award (of $1,000) per student. Instead, schools would be rewarded for students graduating with multiple certifications. The bill would help strengthen the state’s support for technical education in Wisconsin high schools with the goal of making sure students are graduating with the skills Wisconsin employers need in today’s economy.


As the legislative session continues to unfold, you can follow all introduced bills WEDA has reviewed and taken a position on by regularly checking the 2017-18 Legislative Bill Tracker on the WEDA website. You can also review the minutes from the latest meeting of the WEDA Legislative Committee.

If you have any questions or comments on legislation included on WEDA's Bill Tracker, please contact WEDA at mwelsh@weda.org.

 


 
Highlighting the Success of TIF: Oshkosh op-ed

The WEDA Government Affairs team continues to meet with lawmakers to discuss the benefits of tax incremental financing (TIF) and request their support for a TIF modernization legislative package to improve TIF effectiveness, increase accountability and give Wisconsin communities greater flexibility to drive economic development.
 
Most legislators are generally support TIF, as its the only consistent tool their local governments can use to attract private investment and grow the local economy. However, there are also legislators who are concerned TIF has been overused or used in a manner that lies outside the original intent of state TIF law. As such, the WEDA Government Affairs Team will continue to implement an aggressive legislative outreach campaign to educate lawmakers and help move the TIF modernization package through the legislative process.

As was reported in the last edition of Political News and Notes, WEDA is also working with our strategic partners, including WI Realtors Association, League of Wisconsin Municipalities and NAIOP, on an earned media campaign to educate the public on how TIF works and how it can lead to economic growth and job creation. To date, op-eds were written by NAIOP Wisconsin CEO Jim Villa on the tremendous success of a TID in Verona, WI and a thriving TID in Sturtevant.

The most recent article in the TIF op-ed campaign focuses on the city of Oshkosh: TIF at heart of Oshkosh revitalization and business growth. The article was written by WEDA Legislative Affairs and Communications Director Michael Welsh.

For more information on TIF in Wisconsin, please visit the TIF Success page on the WEDA website.
 
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