2021-2023 Biennial Budget Bill
Jordan Lamb, DeWitt LLP
On July 8, 2021, Governor Evers signed the 2021-23 biennial budget bill. The bill provides for approximately $88 billion in spending for the State of Wisconsin over the next two fiscal years. Interestingly, the bill received several Democratic votes in both the Assembly and the Senate making it the first time since 2007 that a budget bill has passed either house of the Legislature with bipartisan support. Governor Evers employed his veto power to change over 50 provisions in the bill from the version delivered to him by the Republican legislature, but he preserved the legislature’s $2 billion income tax cut. The final budget also includes $129 million in broadband expansion and increases transportation spending by $357.3 million over current levels.
Key Budget Provisions for Wisconsin Farmers
The 2021-23 biennial budget bill contains several important provisions for Wisconsin farmers that our coalition worked hard to secure. We sincerely appreciate all of the time and attention that Governor Evers and legislative leaders, especially the members of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), spent on farmer issues throughout this budget process.
- Funding for UW-Extension State Specialists: Wisconsin agriculture groups have worked for several sessions to secure additional funding for state specialist positions within the Division of Extension. The 2021-23 biennial budget bill includes $2 million over the biennium in funding directed toward UW-Madison Division of Extension specialist positions in the field of agricultural research.
- Meat Processing Facility Infrastructure Grants: $400,000 was provided over the biennium (200,000 annually) for meat processor infrastructure grants. (Gov. Evers had proposed $2 million over the biennium.)
- Additional State Meat Inspectors: Four (4) new meat inspector positions. The shortage of inspectors was identified by the DATCP as a critical limiting factor to increasing processing capacity in the State. ·
- Agricultural Export Support – PARTIAL VETO: The Legislature set aside $5 million over five years for DATCP and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to use to support agricultural exports. Under the Legislature’s plan, the funding could be released after DATCP and WEDC jointly submit a proposal to the JFC for allocating the funding to increase dairy, meat, poultry, fish, crop, and other agricultural product exports by 25 percent over their 2021 levels by 2026. The Governor vetoed the requirement that the agencies submit a proposal to the JFC and also vetoed part of the funding. As such, under the enacted budget bill, the new export program is funded with $558,000 annually. ·
- Farmer Mental Health: The budget provides $200,000 in one-time funds over the biennium for farmer mental health grants, which covers the costs of vouchers for services. ·
- Producer-led Watershed Grant Program: The budget increased the statutory cap on the annual producer-led watershed protection grant awards from $750,000 in each year to $1,000,000 in each year for fiscal years 2021-22 and 2022-23. We strongly support farmer-led conservation efforts, and DATCP’s Producer-led Watershed Protection Grant program is an example of a very successful farmer-led conservation initiative. ·
- Well Testing and Remediation: The bill includes $1.2 million in each year of the biennium for DNR’s well testing and remediation grant program for grants to assist rural well owners repair, upgrade or install filtration systems to improve their drinking water quality. This is part of a short-term strategy to help rural well owners address high nitrate levels and other contaminants in drinking water. ·
- Dairy Processor Grant Program: Provides $400,000 in each year of the biennium for the DATCP Dairy Processor Grant Program.