Panel eliminates college regulatory board, saves labor dispute commission

Panel won't reopen WEDC budget

MADISON, Wis. - Panel saves labor dispute commission

The Legislature's finance committee has refused to eliminate the commission that resolves workplace disputes.

The Labor and Industry Review Commission weighs appeals from administrative law judges' decisions in disputes involving unemployment benefits, worker's comp and workplace equal rights.  Gov. Scott Walker's 2017-19 budget called for eliminating LIRC and shifting its duties elsewhere within his administration. The governor has argued the number of cases LIRC has considered has decreased in recent years and eliminating the commission would speed up appeals.

The Joint Finance Committee voted Thursday to retain the commission but eliminate 7.8 vacant positions and ask state Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack to survey LIRC decisions and report back by mid-2018.

Committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling says she hopes the survey will shed light on whether LIRC is following state law when issuing decisions.

Panel expands exemptions for Marquette, camps

The Legislature's budget committee has expanded Marquette University and Bible camp acreage that's exempt from property taxes.

Right now the amount of Marquette acreage not subject to property tax is capped at 80 acres. The committee voted 12-4 on Thursday to raise the cap to 150 acres. Sen. Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee Democrat, complained the move would hurt Milwaukee's coffers. Republican Rep. Dale Kooyenga countered that the university is a good actor and pays its fair share in many ways, including offering free dental care.

The committee also voted unanimously to lift the cap on the number of Bible camp acres exempt from property taxes from 30 to 40 acres. The proposal's author, Republican Sen. Lutheran Olsen, says the plan is a chance for the committee to help Christians.

Panel eliminates college regulatory board

The Legislature's budget committee has approved Gov. Scott Walker's plan to eliminate the state board that regulates for-profit colleges in Wisconsin.

Walker's 2017-19 state budget calls for eliminating the Educational Approval Board and moving its functions to the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The governor included a proposal in his last budget to eliminate the board and move its responsiblities to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, arguing the move would eliminate unnecessary financial and regulatory burdens on colleges. The Joint Finance Committee erased that provision from that budget without any debate.

On Thursday, though, the committee decided to do away with the board. They voted unanimously to move the board and its 6.5 employees to DSPS and end the board on July 1, 2018. Board staff woulc remain in their positions at DSPS.

Panel scraps tech college tuition freeze

The Legislature's budget committee plans to scrap Gov. Scott Walker's plan to freeze technical college tuition.

Walker's 2017-19 state budget calls for freezing resident tuition at 2016-17 levels and handing the technical college system an additional $5 million in state aid to offset the lost revenue.

The Joint Finance Committee's Republican co-chairs, Rep. John Nygren and Sen. Alberta Darling, told reporters Thursday the panel will remove the freeze from the budget but bolster financial aid for technical college students by $2.5 million per year.

Nygren says technical college tuition is already a good bargain and freezing tuition would require more tax dollars to offset the revenue loss.

Finance panel won't reopen WEDC budget

Republicans who control the Legislature's powerful finance committee are refusing to revisit the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.'s budget in the wake of a scathing audit.

The report released Wednesday showed WEDC is failing to accurately track the jobs its awards are supposed to create and retain. Republicans on the finance committee last week voted to lift prohibitions on the agency's loan program despite Democrats' warnings to wait until the audit was released.

The committee's Democrats asked Thursday to revisit WEDC's budget in light of the audit. Republicans voted the request down. Republican Rep. John Nygren, the committee's co-chair, told Democrats he wants to give the Legislature's audit committee a chance to review the report before making any moves.

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