Governor Scott Walker today addressed the Wisconsin Counties Association during their 75th annual conference. Governor Walker met with the group of county leaders to discuss the 2013-15 Biennial Budget and ways the state can continue partnering with counties and local government to grow the state's economy.
"Counties and local government are key partners in growing our economy and moving our state forward," Governor Walker said. "For real results, economic development needs to occur at every level and we will continue to work with the counties to establish additional ways to achieve growth."
Ray Cross, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin Colleges; Richard Klemme, Dean and Director of the University of Wisconsin--Extension; and Rebecca Blank, Chancellor of University of Wisconsin--Madison also addressed the Wisconsin Counties Association. The state is continuing to work with the UW System and UW-Extension on the development of the University of Wisconsin (UW) Flexible Degree Option. This self-paced, competency-based, online program will help adults receive credit for their skills. The UW Flexible Degree Option is one part of an ongoing emphasis on workforce development. Returning people to work with the necessary skills to succeed is an important component of growing our economy.
The 2013-15 Biennial Budget included several investments in county operations including:
$28.9 million in state funds to enhance and expand mental health programs. This includes funding for comprehensive community services, which counties often administer.
Increase of $52.5 million in state highway maintenance funding, which is work performed by counties. A four percent increase in county general transportation aids. Additionally, there are no scheduled delays for any highway projects, and there is no gas tax increase, no mileage-registration, and no fee increases.
$4.3 million for a new broadband grant program to provide access in underserved areas.
$4.25 million annually for child support enforcement, which counties enforce through contracts with the Department of Children and Families. Counties are also eligible for federal incentive payments.
$500,000 annually to establish new preventative drug courts. Drug courts are used as alternatives to incarceration for certain first time offenses and often require the individual to seek treatment. The program helps reduce the number of individuals in jails. Counties are eligible for funds if they establish this program.
The Wisconsin Counties Association (WCA) was formed in 1935 to represent the needs and interests of Wisconsin counties. Attendees of the conference discussed a variety of issues, including Wisconsin's agricultural industry, the impact of the federal Affordable Care Act, conservation programs, lean government, and infrastructure in Wisconsin.