Tuesday, April 25, 2017

And here we go with the Wisconsin budget!

If you're an avid budget watcher (and if you are.....what kind of twisted freak are you?), I got a link to get you geared up. The first round of budget papers from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau are now out ahead of next week's first votes.

There are a few things on Monday that are intriguing, although nothing too earth-shaking. You may be interested to read on the plans by Governor Walker to get rid of the Judicial Commission and move in under the State Supreme Court (one of many consolidations of power in the Governor's budget). There's also scheduled to be discussion about plans to end the state's Local Government Property Insurance Fund (I described the millions that may eventually be needed to bail this fund out back in December).

And if you ever wanted to read about how the state's Indian casinos interact with the state, and the revenue that the tribes send back to the state, I'll direct you to this paper. Because I have a thing for gambling laws and how casinos are doing, I noted that Wisconsin's Indian casinos in 2015 had its highest amount of net gaming revenue in 7 years at nearly $1.2 billion, and up 5.35% compared to 2014.

The LFB says that strong year means that the state should be getting $655,000 above what Governor Walker's bill had built into it, as part of $107 million that the state treasury and state agencies are slated get from the tribes over the 2017-19 biennium. However, there is one small hangup that might get rid of that mini-surplus.
On March 6, 2017, the Stockbridge Munsee tribe indicated "that it has notified the State of Wisconsin of its intent to withhold its revenue sharing payment of $923,000" for 2016-17 in a dispute over the expansion of the Ho-Chunk's Wittenburg facility (scheduled for completion in December, 2017). On April 19, 2017, the Stockbridge Munsee tribe filed suit against the state and the Ho-Chunk Nation alleging that: (a) the state is in violation of the Stockbridge Munsee compact revenue sharing provisions; (b) Ho-Chunk is in violation of its own compact for operating a gaming facility on lands not eligible for Indian gaming under federal law; and (c) the Wittenburg expansion does not meet the meaning of an "ancillary" facility. Given that DOA will not bill the tribe for payment until June, 2017, and that legal matters are pending, no assumption regarding a fiscal impact is made at this time. To the extent that a payment has not been received or is not made, revenue would be reduced pending the outcome of the lawsuit. Subsequent to settlement, payment may be received.
So far the Ho-Chunk haven't backed down, and are threatening a countersuit for damages if the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe doesn't back down. $923,000 isn't a big deal in a General Fund budget that is well over $15 billion a year, but it's an interesting story to follow if you like to play a few casino games around Highway 29.

But that tribal casino question is a mere trifle compared to the bigger issues that'll follow over the rest of May and June. Feel free to get your head ready for all of the fun and games, especially since we get new revenue numbers that could make or (more likely) break a lot of things when they come out some time over the next 2 weeks.

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