Final State Budget: The Good, the Bad, and the UGLY

After months of battle, the dust from the budget process is settling at the State Capitol. Last weekend, Governor Walker signed the state budget into law.

There is no question this budget was one of the worst in history for conservation. But, because of conservation voters like you weighing in time and again, we walked away with some victories, too. Let’s start our budget summary with those victories you fought so hard for – and won.

The GOOD

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program – Governor Walker tried to freeze the popular land protection program, but conservation voters like you weighed in almost 14,000 times with members of the Joint Finance Committee and the Governor to save it from extinction. Citizens held meetings with their legislators, wrote letters to local newspapers, and asked friends and family to join in. The thousands of stories you shared with legislators about the importance of this program brought it back to life, restoring over $33 million for land protection in Wisconsin.

Department of Natural Resources Board – In another victory, just one day after hundreds of dedicated conservationists like you called for it at Conservation Lobby Day, the Joint Finance Committee fixed Governor Walker’s proposal to turn the Department of Natural Resources Board into an advisory board – a move that would have eliminated citizen input in our natural resource decisions.

County Conservationists – Governor Walker’s proposed budget called for $800,000 in cuts to County Conservation staff – our local boots on the ground working to reduce polluted runoff and providing critical testing and monitoring that keep our land and water clean. Your letters – over 11,000 – helped restore $675,000 to this vital program.

The BAD and the UGLY

The number of bad, ugly, and downright terrible policy items and cuts to critical conservation programs in this budget is appalling. Wisconsin has long been a leader in conservation, but this budget takes us backwards. Here are some of the worst parts of the budget:

  • In a move that attacks the very core of good natural resource decision making, the budget severely cuts Department of Natural Resources science, education, and communications staff.

  • The budget makes it easier for oil companies to bring tar sands oil through Wisconsin communities. It also prohibits local governments from requiring pipeline companies to have adequate insurance to cover cleanup costs, removing the expectation that oil companies will clean up their own messes.

  • The budget removes shoreland zoning standards that over 30 counties use to protect lakes and rivers, opening the way to more frequent and severe stinky, toxic algae blooms.

View our full budget summary here.

While there is much to be frustrated about in this state budget, together, our voices made a difference. Because of conservation voters like you, we were able to take one of the worst budgets of all time and work with legislators to win some important victories for your air, land, and water.

Moving forward, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters will continue to hold your legislators accountable and, with your support, keep up the fight to protect the Wisconsin we love.

Thanks for all of your work for conservation,

Matt Dannenberg, Field Director: Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on July 15, 2015

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