SNA Newsletter – May 2019
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Update on Joint Committee on Finance Action on School Breakfast Program
SNA’s lobbying team at Hoven Consulting utilized a comprehensive strategy to lobby the legislature to support full funding for the school breakfast program. They broadly lobbied the legislature to build wide support among Republicans and Democrats in both houses and targeted specific influential legislators to build our case.
They successfully asked over ten vulnerable Republican Assembly members to draft a budget motion and urge their designated budget buddy on the Joint Committee on Finance to support full funding for the program, and they also secured Republican Senator and Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Finance Luther Olsen to fight for full funding among his colleagues.
Hoven Consulting also created and coordinated a School Breakfast Coalition made up the School Nutrition Association, the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, School Choice Wisconsin, Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools, the American Heart Association, the Hunger Task Force, and the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance. The lobbyists for those organizations were actively lobbying on the proposal as well.
SNA also utilized grassroots advocacy strategies to ask all members to call and email legislators and participate in JFC budget hearings.
On May 23, the Joint Committee on Finance did not accept Governor Evers' proposal to fully fund the school breakfast program.
In speaking with committee leadership, Hoven Consulting was told that while Republican members on both the Assembly and Senate side supported increased funding, there was ultimately issues among legislative leadership office. The argument from leadership is that they believe "increased funding for the program would not necessarily provide more breakfast for children." They alleged that "increased funding will simply provide more money to districts without actually increasing the number of breakfasts served."
SNA vehemently disagrees with that position and Hoven Consulting has consistently made that known. Throughout the entire budget process up to this point, Hoven Consulting combated that argument by arguing that:
1. Current funding levels are threatening the sustainability of schools currently providing the program, which means that certain programs could cease without new revenue and kids will stop receiving breakfasts
2. Current funding levels are discouraging to any schools not currently providing the program, which means there are many kids in many districts not receiving breakfasts now because a breakfast program is not fiscally viable
3. Wisconsin is currently at the bottom in rankings for school participation in the program according to FRAC reports.
It's disappointing that the committee once again did not increase funding for the program. However, there is a possibility that if the budget negotiations come to a stalemate between the Governor and the legislature, funding for the program could come back into play. As has been evidenced during his time as Superintendent and now Governor, Evers is very supportive of the program.
In a bittersweet takeaway, the committee did vote to increase funding for the School Day Milk Program. Specifically the committee voted to increase funding for the program by $382,900 annually to provide reimbursements of a portion of the cost of serving milk to low-income pupils in kindergarten through 5th grade.
As we look to the future, Hoven Consulting and SNA leadership will work to expand and improve the strategy for securing funding for the school breakfast program. This fight is not over, and we look to developing a game plan.
State Files Lawsuit Against Purdue Pharma
On May 16, Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul announced the state has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and its former president and chairman Richard Sackler. The state is alleging Purdue Pharma and Sackler purposefully misled the public about the dangers of its opioid products by downplaying the negative addictive nature of those products. Wisconsin joined Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, and West Virginia in filing lawsuits against Purdue and Sackler last week.
The lawsuit is in reaction to the statewide opioid epidemic, which the state is alleging is at least in part the result of Purdue Pharma’s false advertising. According to the filed suit, 7,500 Wisconsin citizens died due to opioid overdoses from 2000 to 2017, and the cost of combating the state’s opioid epidemic has been “enormous” according to Kaul.
As such, the state is seeking civil penalties, monetary damages, and a judicial order to stop unlawful marketing and prescribing of opioids.
Follow the HC Report for updates on this story as the lawsuit progresses.
Legislative Republicans Consider Passing Two Budget Bills
According to a story published on WisPolitics.com, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) are considering passing two separate budget bills this summer. One would address state funding and the other would focus on policy issues. The strategy is an attempt to mitigate Governor Tony Evers’ line item veto powers.
While Wisconsin governors have the authority to line item veto legislation, they can only do so when legislation include appropriations. By passing a policy bill separate from an appropriations bill, Evers would only have the option of signing the policy bill or vetoing it in its entirety.
Both Vos and Fitzgerald indicated they are exploring the option but have not made a final decision. The move would be unprecedented since the state adopted its current budget process in 1931.
State Revenue Estimates Increase $753 Million
According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state will receive $753 million more in tax revenue than previously estimated. The new revenue estimates come during the middle of heated deliberations on the state budget. Democratic Governor Tony Evers and the Republican-controlled legislature have differing views on how to use the new revenue.
Evers wants to use some of the funds to make payments on state debt, add an additional %15 million to worker training programs, and provide $18 million for the Wisconsin Technical College System.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was somewhat less specific in his plan for the new revenue, saying in a statement, “Assembly Republicans are announcing are intentions to put these dollars toward providing tax relief, growing the rainy day fund and paying down debt. Now is not the time to go on a spending spree.”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said, “Wisconsin is seeing a return on our responsible fiscal management over the last eight years. As a result, we find ourselves in a great position to cut taxes, make smart investments in infrastructure, and maintain a strong closing balance.”
As of this writing, the legislature has not announced any official, detailed plans for the revenue, but it is likely they will pass some amount of tax relief.