COVID-19 and the resulting economic shutdown have dealt a serious blow to many businesses and individuals in Wisconsin and around the globe. State and local governments
have also felt the effects. The summer before an election would normally be the time when DBA begins its discussions with lawmakers about our budget priorities for the coming two years. This year, those discussions are going much differently.
All levels of government have experienced a sharp decline in revenue. The uncertainty surrounding the disease and economic recovery have made making predictions about future revenue very difficult. This means we are entering the season to discuss how to spend our state’s money for the next two years and all we know is that we will have a lot less money than last budget and a lot less money than we anticipated.
The difficult budget fight will likely be preceded by an equally difficult fight over a budget repair bill to try to address the shortfalls in the previous budget, which did not anticipate COVID-19 and its fallout. Neither of these processes are likely to improve the tense working relationship between Gov. Evers and the Republican majority in the Legislature.
This is not a pretty picture, but it does not mean that the next legislative sessions will be without victories for agriculture, particularly dairy farmers. We are going to have to work harder than normal, maybe harder than ever before, to prevent budget cuts that might be damaging to the dairy community.
Also, advocating for new funding will be exceptionally hard. We should fully expect that long-standing budgetary problems, such as the lack of adequate funding for transportation projects, will not be solved by this budget. There will not be the money nor the political will to do so.
The inaction on several priorities will be frustrating for our members and staff. Farmers are used to navigating economic ups and downs and making do in less than ideal situations. They will likely expect more from their elected leaders than those leaders will be able to deliver.
There will be an emphasis on bringing forward ideas that are revenue neutral or perhaps even revenue positive. This is not always an easy thing to do, but it could present a real opportunity for DBA to offer creative regulatory reform ideas. There are changes that could be made to existing processes that will cut the red tape that farmers and agribusinesses face. These changes can often be made without costing the state anything. These cuts could even save money or help to spur development that will produce more tax revenue.
DBA is working to set its policy priorities for the next legislative session, which includes any budget asks that we will be making. We will continue to be creative and adaptable - just like our members - which are exactly the traits that we have all needed so far in 2020. We hope they will continue to serve Wisconsin’s dairy community well.