Local interests brought into state budget

Joe Leibham • 9th Senatorial District

Below is a list of initiatives that were included in the final version of the budget signed into law recently by Governor Scott Walker. These items were added to the budget bill through amendments that I offered as a result of either unique circumstances in our area or at the request of groups that I spoke to in the 9th Senate District.

LEAN Government Initiative- For several months, I have been working with the City of Manitowoc and various Manitowoc area businesses on a partnership model to make local units of govern- ment more efficient through the implementation of LEAN initiatives. At the state level, Governor Walker is already requiring state agencies to implement LEAN processes that will reduce waste and bureaucracy in our government.

I believe it is important to encourage and support local governments in implementing LEAN initiatives as well. Therefore, I was pleased to offer a budget amendment that will provide some state financial incentives to encourage local units of government to work with area businesses to adopt LEAN practices.

Sheboygan County Highway LS Relocation- I have also been working recently with Sheboygan and Manitowoc Counties, as well as numerous municipal officials and residents in the Sheboygan- Mosel-Cleveland area to address the deterioration of Highway LS along Lake Michigan due to aggressive bluff erosion. As a result of this erosion, the highway is literally falling into the lake and is in need of immediate relocation. As a solution, one possibility is to relocate and build an entirely new highway costing millions of dollars and impacting numerous private properties. At the same time, the Town of Mosel in Sheboygan County and the Town of Centerville in Manitowoc County are facing a separate multi-million dollar rehabilitation of Dairyland Drive, which is actually old State Highway 41 and lies less than ½ mile west of the proposed new County Highway LS route.

The budget provision I offered would encourage and support a more fiscally responsible solution that is also more respectful of private property rights. Under the plan, construction of a new roadway would be eliminated and Dairlyand Drive would be designated as County Highway LS and upgraded appropriately. To facilitate this cooperative process the budget will provide a framework for the state to partner with the appropriate local governments to help resolve this issue. Under the motion, the state would contribute up to $4.2 million for the project, to be matched with equal local funding. In order for state funds to be committed, all impacted local units of government must come to an agreement on the specifics of the project. I look forward to continuing to work with affected individuals to move this project forward.

Sheboygan County Ozone Monitor- Currently, Sheboygan County has been designated “non-attainment” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for ground-level ozone air pollution. This means that we do not meet the maximum concentration thresholds the EPA has established. As a result, several sanctions have been imposed on the county affecting businesses and consumers negatively. These pollution levels are currently measured by a monitoring station on the coast of Lake Michigan just south of the City of Sheboygan. Over the past number of years, there has been some concern that this single monitor is catching bad emissions in the air stream that comes from Milwaukee, Chicago and Indiana and not producing an accurate representation of the air quality in other parts of Sheboygan County.

As a result, the budget motion I sponsored will provide state support for the construction and operation of a second ozone monitor further inland in Sheboygan County. The goal is to obtain more complete air quality data for all of Sheboygan County that could then be used by EPA in determining non-attainment designations. I was pleased to work with the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce on this initiative and am excited to see the results.

Funding for Tuberculosis Response- In the spring of this year, the Sheboygan area was struck by an outbreak of tuberculosis that required rapid response, containment, and medical care. Because of the dangers associated with tuberculosis, response efforts to outbreaks can be expensive. Therefore, I was pleased to work with Governor Scott Walker and other legislators to provide state support for Sheboygan County’s efforts to contain the tuberculosis outbreak. Under the budget provision, $6.1 million will be available from the state to assist Sheboygan County with tuberculosis response efforts. This money can be requested to be released to the county as expenditures occur and is subject to further legislative review and oversight.

Non-Profit Resale Property Tax Exemption- For several years, I have been working with a non-profit resale store in Manitowoc with a property tax concern. This resale store accepts donated merchandise and resells these items to consumers. The profits from these sales fund scholarships for students in the community to attend Manitowoc Lutheran High School. Unlike numerous other non-profit service organizations, resale stores like this are not property tax exempt, despite the fact that they are eligible for an income tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) organization. In order to clarify the law and support non-profits around the state, I authored a budget motion that would make these kinds of non-profit resale stores exempt from property tax liability.

Land Information Program- I was happy to work with various county officials on changes made in the budget to the county land information program. This program, funded by fees on various Register of Deeds services, provides the public access to land information/records and various maps for review. The budget will make a series of changes to the operation of this program that will grant county officials who administer this program additional flexibility while maintaining support for this important service to citizens. The budget will increase the amount of state grants available to counties for this program, increase internet access to these records, and provide for support for the development of a statewide digital parcel map that will increase the ease of access to land information. This program has always been a collaborative effort between the state, individual counties, and the public and I was pleased to participate in continuing this important collaboration.

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