April 6, 2017 – Nearly a month after Governor Walker introduced his biennial budget proposal to the legislature, members of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will begin their deliberations. The budget process and schedule received some clarity last week as the co-chairs of the JFC announced a series of statewide public hearings and state agency budget briefings that began last week.
Six Statewide Public Hearings Scheduled
In conjunction with the announcement of the agency briefings, the co-chairs also announced that the JFC will be traveling around the state for six scheduled public hearings. The first hearings were held in Platteville on April 3rd and West Allis on April 5th, and will continue over portions of the next three weeks with the final hearing in Marinette on April 21st. Other public hearing locations include: Berlin (April 7th), Spooner (April 18th) and Ellsworth (April 19th).
Tips for Testifying or Submitting Comments on Budget Proposals
The budget’s public hearing process is an opportunity for the public, including members of the State Bar, to express their support or concerns on specific items contained in the Governor’s budget proposal. Because the budget is such a large and wide-ranging policy document, it is not unusual to have hundreds of people from the general public sign-up to testify. Those wanting to testify can expect a two-minute time limit to be placed on their testimony. Depending on the amount of people waiting to testify, it is possible that the time limit could be shortened further. The committee often employs a first come, first to testify process. So, the earlier you are able to get to the hearing site to register your desire to speak, the earlier you will likely testify.
A few other tips when testifying:
- Written testimony is encouraged. Bring copies (20) of your written testimony to be circulated by the page staff. Legislators or staff will often refer to your testimony during the hearing or will place it in a file to reference at a later time – generally when the topic is up for a vote during budget debate.
- Do not read your testimony word for word. Use you speaking time effectively, but speak from your heart by reinforcing your position or concerns. If you have alternatives or suggestions, offer them as possible solutions.
- After your testimony, follow-up with a phone call or email to both members of the JFC and your local legislators. It is important that you restate your position or issue throughout the budget process.
- Be respectful and courteous of the process. Applause or cheering for other speakers is not permitted and everyone should be given courtesy and respect as they testify, regardless of their point of view. The hearings last many hours and often go late into the day. As a result, members of the JFC and other local legislators in attendance will often be out of their seat taking a break at various points of the day. This does not mean that they don’t care about the issues. This is also why it is important to submit written testimony and follow-up with an additional personal contact.
If you can’t attend the public hearings in person, but still want to submit testimony or comments for the record, you can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or through mail to:
Room 305 East State Capitol
Madison, WI 53702.
Whether you testify in person or submit comments, the best way to have your voice heard is by engaging your elected legislator. You can do this through a personal phone call, an in-person meeting, sending an email or writing a letter.
If members have questions on specific budget items or on how they can best contact their elected officials, please contact one of the State Bar’s Government Relations Coordinators, Lynne Davis at email@example.com or Cale Battles at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What Happens Next in the Budget Process?
Once the agency briefings and public hearings are complete, voting on individual provisions of the budget will begin in early May, with a possible final committee vote in early June. The Legislature will then debate and vote on the proposal in late June or possibly into July.