Capitol Week-in-Review – October 27, 2016

State of Wisconsin Ends Fiscal Year 2016 in the Black

Last Monday, the Wisconsin Department of Administration released its Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report (CAFR) for Fiscal Year 2016. This report is a complete accounting of incoming state tax revenues and outgoing state expenditures for the period of July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016.

The State of Wisconsin ended the fiscal year with a positive balance of $313.8 million and an additional $281 million set aside in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. For the year, tax collections were below projections by 0.5%. Overall taxpayer-funded spending came in below projections by $103 million.

A positive fiscal outlook for the first year of the biennial budget is a good sign, but there is no guarantee that this trend will continue into the second year of the 2015-2017 state budget. The ending balance in the second year of the biennial budget is always more important because it serves as the baseline for the next two-year state budget.

FEMA Approves Disaster Declaration for Western Wisconsin

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved a major disaster declaration for ten western Wisconsin counties impacted by flooding in September. The counties are Adams, Chippewa, Clark, Crawford, Jackson, Juneau, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland, and Vernon.

The major disaster declaration is for Public Assistance, which covers eligible projects submitted by counties, cities, townships, and certain private, not-for-profit organizations. Under this program, FEMA provides 75% of eligible costs, while state and local agencies share the remaining 25%.

Homeowners and businesses are not eligible for assistance under this program. We are awaiting further guidance about federal and\or state government aid to non-governmental entities.

Vehicle Miles Traveled in Wisconsin Hits Record High in 2015

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is a nationally-agreed upon metric of highway use. It is calculated by combining data on statewide fuel consumption, highway performance monitoring system and automatic traffic recorder continuous traffic count information.

Last year, drivers traveled 62.1 billion miles on Wisconsin roadways – an increase of nearly 2.1 billion miles over 2014 data and the largest annual percentage jump in Wisconsin VMT in 17 years. For perspective, 62.1 billion miles is equal to about 334 round-trips between the Earth and Sun.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation attributes the increase in VMT to several factors including a strengthening economy, growing population, lower gas prices and continued growth in commercial motor vehicle traffic.