The segregated (SEG) environmental fund consists of the environmental management account and the nonpoint account. The two accounts are statutorily designated as one fund but are tracked separately for budgetary purposes. Both accounts rely heavily on revenues from several state solid waste tipping fees. Wisconsin landfills pay state solid waste tipping fees for each ton of solid waste disposed of in the landfill. State solid waste tipping fees total $12.997 per ton for most solid waste disposed of at Wisconsin landfills, including municipal solid waste and non-highvolume industrial waste. Of this total, $12.84 per ton is deposited in the environmental fund, including $9.64 per ton in the environmental management account and $3.20 per ton in the nonpoint account. The nonpoint account is also funded with an annual general purpose revenue (GPR) transfer of $7,991,100. The environmental fund supports programs primarily at the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), including financial assistance programs for local governments and collaborating partners.That GPR transfer (aka, general tax dollars) was reduced from $11.1 million to just under $8 million in the last Walker/WisGOP budget. And to make up for that, as you can see in this chart, the environmental management account sent $3.625 million to the nonpoint account in each year of the 2018-19 budget is projected. But barring other transfers or other changes in law, the nonpoint account is projected to have a deficit of $15.7 million in it as Governor Evers' budget stands today, with a budget hole of more than $10 million that has to be filled in.
If you look at how these two accounts get their funding, you'll see that the Environmental Fund gets a much higher proportion of tipping fees, while the Nonpoint account is the only one that relies on General Tax money.
Those charts would indicate that moving $7.7 million from the environmental fund to the nonpoint account in both years would make both accounts balanced with small cushions for the 2019-21 biennium. But the Evers budget largely left it up to the Legislature to decide how that would be done, so the LFB mentions two methods that could level these two balances off without having to change the overall amount taxpayers or local communities have to pay.
As discussed previously, 2017 Act 59 reduced the GPR transfer to the nonpoint account by $3,152,500 each year on an ongoing basis to $7,991,100. The transfer was offset by an equivalent transfer of environmental management account funding on a one-time basis during the biennium. At the time, the administration provided the environmental management transfer on a one-time basis because it was not clear environmental management revenues would continue to have a surplus in future years. Considering the anticipated surplus of base revenues relative to base expenditures in the environmental management account of $8.9 million in 2020-21, it is expected that surplus revenues will continue in the 2021-23 biennium. While funding could be provided on a one-time basis, both the environmental management account and nonpoint account conditions are due to ongoing factors, thus any imbalance would continue in future years. The Committee could consider providing funding as an ongoing transfer from the environmental management account.There also could be a usage of our one-time surplus to allow the non-point account to carry over a large amount of money for this year, which would allow any long-term structural change to be put off until at least the next budget.
20. Another way of providing an ongoing transfer of revenue from the environmental management to the nonpoint account would be to increase the nonpoint tipping fee for municipal and non-high-volume industrial waste and decrease the environmental repair tipping fee deposited in the environmental management account by the same amount. This would not change the total amount per ton paid on solid waste disposed of in the state and deposited into the environmental fund, but would change the statutory amount of the fee deposited in each of the two accounts. While a transfer of the environmental management account balance and a rebalancing of tipping fees have the same effect, a reallocation of statutory fees would provide more transparency to fee payers about the final use of their contributions. The Committee could consider rebalancing the deposit of tipping fees into each account.
But the other part of the equation involves costs, and the Evers Administration included more funds in this budget for grants to reverse the backsliding that happened in environmental upkeep and enforcement that happened during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. Among those moves include:
1. Creating a Bureau of Natural Resources Science at the DNR, include 5 new scientist jobs in that area, and move 14 other positions in fish and wildlife management from another part of the DNR to this new bureau. This would cost the Environmental Management Fund another $718,500.
2. An additional $25 million in borrowing authority to remove sediment and other contaminants from Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and their inland tributaries.
3. Increase lake and river protection grants by $1.49 million a year, which seems timely given this headline from today.
4. Another $1.5 million a year to soil and water management programs, and borrowing another $10 million (to be paid off over time) to increase a program that helps share the cost of improvements intended to reduce runoff at the source. Evers also wants to set aside $800,000 in cash for nonpoint source water abatement grants, as opposed to the $200,000 that is currently in the budget (from the Nonpoint Account), and an additional $230,000 a year for "providing research, education, and outreach related to nonpoint source water pollution abatement programs.".
5. Another $1.4 million a year to help counties hire workers for land and water conservation (tax dollars would pay for $476,000 of this, the Nonpoint account would cover the other $924,000).
Let's see how much the Koched-up WisGOPs allow out of these provisions, and whether they remove them either out of ideology/corruption, or if the deficit in the Nonpoint account as an excuse. But there's little doubt that Evers is asking for a significant change in direction from the last 8 years, and given the increasing news of runoff problems and deteriorating water quality, it's definitely needed in Wisconsin these days.