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Budget Bill Devastates Environmental Programs

Budget Bill Devastates Environmental Programs

Governor Walker introduced the 2011-2013 biennial budget bill which has far reaching consequences for Wisconsin’s environment.  The bill makes fundamental changes to some programs and policies that have been in place for generations.  The following is a brief summary of some of the major changes.  A more detailed review will be coming shortly.  To read the budget bill in its entirety, click here. For a brief overview, click here here.

Summary:

Stewardship:

Eliminate payments for aids in lieu of taxes and require local governments to pass resolution of support  (This will mean fewer Stewardship purchases)

Prohibit purchase of development rights EXCEPT for preserving logging rights or trails. (Fewer acres protected)

Erosion Control:

Transfer enforcement of soil erosion controls from DNR to Regulation and Licensing (No technical expertise in Reg and Licensing)

Lower recent phosphorous standards to a level no more stringent than neighboring states.  (Phosphorous is the leading pollutant that degrades water quality through algal blooms.)  Wisconsin has previsouly been looked to as a leader in setting standards for water quality – this will ensure that we are prohibited from becoming a leader in water quality protection.

Recycling:

Eliminate requirement for local recycling programs in the state.  (Wisconsin’s program has long been considered the best program in the nation.)

Transfer municipal recycling aid program revenues to economic development fund.

Working Lands:

Eliminate the conversion fee for rezoning land out of a farmland preservation zoning district.

Eliminate the PACE program (Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements) and the $12 million of GPR supported bonds.

Transit:

Moves transit Funding from the Transportation Fund to the General Fund (where it will face intense competition from other programs) and keeps a 3% increase in 2011, and 10% reduction in 2012 and no increase in 2013.  Removes $100 million in bonding authority for transit in S.E. Wisconsin (the KRM.)  This, coupled with the provision in the budget repair bill that costs the state $44 million in transit aids will devastate transit in the state.  The full effects may be felt when gas reaches

Requires binding referenda for RTAs.  (Separate bill would eliminate RTAs.)

(NOTE:  Highway spending increases by 14%)

General:

Input from citizen boards (DNR, DATCP) becomes largely irrelevant because they no longer have rule-making or policy development authority.  (Again, Wisconsin was considered the model for good governance, the DNR structure dating back to the Kellett Commission in 1967.)

These changes incorporate a fundamental shift in how Wisconsin regulates the environment.  They change process, standards and levels of protection in some cases that have been in place for generations.  There is no other way to portray this but as a radical shift in environmental protection in the state of Wisconsin.