May 8, 2023

JFC Executive Sessions Begin for State Budget

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has concluded public hearings on the 2023-25 state budget and has started holding executive sessions on the budgets of each state agency. The JFC has pulled 545 of Governor Evers’ proposals from the budget and instead will build its own version starting with the current (base) budget. 

Several of the budget items listed in the WCC’s 2023-25 Budget Issue Brief have not been removed from JFC consideration. These items include funding for postpartum Medicaid expansion, home visiting for at-risk families, child care, special education, homeless and housing grants, mental health and substance use treatment, Treatment Alternatives and Diversion, Opening Avenues to Reentry Success, PFAS cleanup, broadband expansion, and grants to repair or replace contaminated wells and aging septic systems. The final shape of these provisions will not be known until the JFC concludes its executive sessions and provides a bill to the Legislature by mid-June or later. 

Once passed by both houses of the Legislature, the bill will be sent to the Governor for his signature or veto. The WCC will continue to advocate the priorities listed in the WCC Budget Issue Brief, either as budget items or standalone bills.

WCC Opposes Flat Tax Proposal

On April 25, the WCC testified in opposition to SB-1 (LeMahieu, Devin) which creates a flat tax income rate for Wisconsin. The bill moves the state from four tax brackets (3.54%, 4.65%, 5.3%, and 7.65%) to one tax bracket at 3.25% by 2026. The committee took no further action.

Assembly Passes Medicaid Disenrollment

On April 25, the Assembly passed AB-148 (Penterman, William) which requires that the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) determine an individual’s eligibility for the state’s BadgerCare Plus program every six months. The bill also states that a failure to disclose information pertaining to benefit determination within 10 days can result in a six month suspension from the Medicaid program. The bill now awaits a public hearing in the Senate. The WCC testified in opposition.

Hearing on Abortion Ban Held in Dane County Circuit Court

On May 4, Dane County Circuit Court heard oral arguments regarding the motion to dismiss Josh Kaul et al vs. Joel Urmanski et al. The case was filed by State Attorney General Josh Kaul last June to challenge Wis. Stat. 940.04, which prohibits abortion except to save the life of the mother. Three district attorneys in counties that were home to abortion clinics are named as defendants, including Sheboygan County District Attorney Joel Urmanski, who filed a motion to dismiss the suit. It is unclear when a ruling will be delivered. Regardless of the ruling, the case is widely expected to be appealed ultimately to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Governor Evers Signs Watershed Grants

On May 8, Governor Evers signed bipartisan AB-65 (Kitchens, Joel) into law as 2023 Wisconsin Act 5. The new law expands eligibility for producer-led watershed, lake, and river protection grants. The WCC registered in support. 

Special Election for Assembly District 24

On May 5, Gov. Tony Evers signed Executive Order #198 calling for a special election for the 24th Assembly District to fill the vacancy created by the election of former Rep. Daniel Knodl to the 8th Senate District. The election will be held on July 18, 2023. If a primary is necessary, it will be held on June 20. 

WCC Public Policy Positions: Support Elders and Persons with Disabilities and Chronic or Terminal Illnesses

Here we elaborate on each of the WCC's 2023 Public Policy Positions. The complete document can be found below.

Support elders and persons with disabilities and chronic or terminal illnesses. Respect for all human life means assisting those with limitations. Wisconsin must ensure these individuals receive necessary support and services, including transportation and quality care. Wisconsin must also assist caregivers and value their contributions to the well-being of their families and communities. 

The Church teaches that all individuals are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore endowed with inherent dignity and worth. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states that, “respect for the human person entails respect for the rights that flow from his dignity as a creature” (CCC 1930). Furthermore, “everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as another self, bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity” (CCC 1931). 

This duty to serve our neighbor becomes “even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area that may be” (CCC 1933). As the Wisconsin bishops wrote in their pastoral letter, Now and At the Hour of Our Death:

In a culture that so values productivity, the community can easily begin to view individuals who are older, infirm, or disabled as being a burden on families and society. Even worse are situations where individuals begin to feel useless and think that their families would be better off if they would simply die.

Catholics offer a different vision. As persons who are one body in Christ, we are called to carry on a stewardship of caring not only for our own lives, but also the lives of those around us. As Church and as a society we must never allow anyone to feel or believe that his or her life is without dignity and value.

The Church reminds us of Christ’s words that “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). We must treat every individual with love, dignity, and respect and help ensure that no one is left to face their challenges alone.   

Update from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WCC 2023 Public Policy Positions

The WCC's 2023 Public Policy Positions are designed to inform state legislators, policy makers, and other interested parties about the Church's public policy positions and the principles that undergird them.

2023-24 Legislature and Citizen Resources

To find out who your legislators are, go to the Wisconsin State Legislature's home page and enter your address under Who Are My LegislatorsOther legislative resources include:

You can also follow state government by tuning in to WisconsinEye, the independent, nonpartisan news service that provides uncut video coverage of state government proceedings.

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