Summer has arrived here in Waushara County. I don’t know about you, but our permit numbers are up significantly from the last few years. I doubt we will get back to the peak numbers we had previously for quite a while yet, but it appears that our building is bouncing back and everyone is back to being busy this year. And that is good news for all of us. Including the county and state budget watchers, if the growth continues.
Speaking of budgets, most of the legislative action that has taken place so far this year has been in and around the state’s biennial budget. WCCA formed a coalition with the Wisconsin Realtors Association, Wisconsin Builders Association, Wisconsin Counties Association, Wisconsin Liquid Waste Carriers, Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association, Wisconsin Plumbing and Heating Contractors, Wisconsin Towns Association, and Wisconsin Precast Association to address two items in the Governor’s Budget. Those were the transfer of the POWTs program from DSPS to DNR, and the elimination of Wisconsin Fund dollars.
At this time, I am happy to report that the transfer of the POWTs program is no longer in the budget, and that Wisconsin Fund dollars have been partially restored for this biennium. Although WCCA was not particularly opposed to the transfer of the POWTs program to DNR, we agreed to back the others in their opposition to that portion of the budget, in order to get the support of all coalition members in opposing the elimination of the Wisconsin Fund.
The levels reinstated to the Wisconsin Fund appear to fully fund those applications on the books for fiscal 2016. And would likely fund all Category 1’s for fiscal year 2017 if the projections are right. There were no promises that these funds would be available after this biennium, but at least those folks that applied this year would get funding if the governor signs the budget as currently written. I do not believe our voice on this issue would have been heard without the support of our coalition partners. And as always, there are compromises necessary when working with a larger group. But I think this was a great starting point, and hopefully we can work towards future relationships with these and other groups that we do not normally work with when issues of mutual concern arise.
As always, there are other things creeping into the budget that are not fiscal items. There is talk of trying to include a motion for Dane County towns to opt out of County Zoning. WCA brought this to our attention. WCA, WCCA, and the Wisconsin County Planning and Zoning Directors all prepared memos of opposition to be presented to the members of the Joint Committee on Finance. This again presented a unified voice of opposition to this special interest item, that all involved felt should be properly discussed and vetted during the legislative bill process, rather than just placed in the budget. We will keep our eye on this, and let you know how this turns out.
On last item related to the budget, currently there has been a motion added that would allow members of religious sects to obtain a waiver to certain one and two family building code provisions. The provisions are listed as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and certain electrical wiring and plumbing provisions. This motion was introduced and passed without notice so there was not an opportunity for anyone to address it. Unfortunately, it appears this will probably stay in the budget, unless a legislative member introduces a motion to counter it during the general floor session debating the budget, or the governor vetoes it. And my guess, is neither of these scenarios are likely. Again, we will keep you posted.
So the news is both good and bad. The Executive Board will be meeting June 12th to discuss these and many other items of interest. We plan to work on another Zoning Leadership Training Session for those new to the Zoning field to coincide with the Fall Conference. So if you have someone in your office that would benefit from this, please keep October 21st open for them. And finally, please take time to enjoy our beautiful state this summer. We all need to remember why we do what we do, and who we do it for. And a trip around the state usually helps me remember that and brings my work into focus with what is important to all of us. Plus I get to see all the great stuff in your County. We truly live in a great place and what you all do every day makes it even greater. Please remember that. See you in the fall! Terri