Busy day scheduled for Joint Finance Committee - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Busy day for Joint Finance Committee


MADISON (WKOW) -- The previously troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation will be fully funded for the next fiscal year, despite objections from Democrats.

The legislature's Joint Finance Committee decided Wednesday to release about $60 million to the state's lead economic development agency. That money had been held in reserve as legislators waited to see if the WEDC was complying with the conditions of a state financial audit.

"Our interactive map that we filed with our annual report this year, any citizen in the state of Wisconsin can go to that map, go to Senator Harsdorf's district and look at the investments that we made there.  I think all that adds to our reporting transparency," testified WEDC CEO Reed Hall.

The budget committee has also approved seven proposals designed to improve mental health services in the state. The Senate could take those up as early as next week.


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin legislature's budget committee is considering what to do with a $35 million surplus generated by the state jobs agency.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation(WEDC) is asking permission to spend $18.4 million of the reserves, but the move is sure to generate opposition from lawmakers, primarily Democrats, who've been critical of the agency since its creation in 2011.

The Joint Finance Committee has $63 million set aside in the state budget for WEDC. The agency is asking for $44.7 million of that, plus the $18.4 million of the surplus.

Also on the committee's agenda Wednesday, seven bipartisan proposals designed to improve mental health services in Wisconsin.

The measures all passed the Assembly unanimously, but they must be approved by the Joint Finance Committee before going to the Senate, perhaps as early as next week.

The bills came out of the mental health task force formed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in reaction to mass shootings in Wisconsin and nationwide.

The bills would increase services for people with mental illness, including $250,000 to train law enforcement officials, $1.5 million in tax-deductible grants to encourage psychiatrists and primary care physicians to practice in underserved areas, and creating "crisis teams" in rural areas with few mental health services.

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