Tuesday, February 7, 2023

WisGOPs want to use tax dollars on licensing backlog, but don't need tax dollars to end backlog!

After several news reports over the last year complaining about delays in processing license requests at the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), the WisGOPs took action today.

Democrats on the Audit Committee thought this would be counterproductive, partially because progress was already being made on answering phone calls and getting licenses processed, but also because audits require DSPS workers to spend time responding to that instead of serving the public and getting licenses processed.

Matthew DeFour did a deep dive on the staffing situation at DSPS at Wisconsin Watch, and noted that while things are far from perfect today, more callers are able to get through and get assisance now than they did 5 years ago.
The agency’s call center performance began to drop in 2017 under then-Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, according to data obtained by Wisconsin Watch through a public records request. The department data show just over half of all calls were “agent answered” in 2018.

The rate improved dramatically in the second half of 2022 after Evers used federal funding to hire an outside firm in June to increase the agency’s call center staff from six to 26. The department also switched to a new phone system with a higher capacity in December 2021, so fewer people now get a busy signal, which wasn’t logged as a call under the old system. A department spokesperson said that explains why the number of received calls under the new system nearly doubled to 400,000 in 2022.

The data show 36% of calls were answered in the first half of 2022, 71% of calls were answered in the second half and 98% of calls were answered in December. The new system makes it difficult to compare the 2022 data with previous years.

With that recent success in increasing contacts, the agency wants to keep those new staffers and add more workers to try to reduce the backlog in licensing, asking for 70 new positions at the agency in the sgtate budget that starts on July 1.

Here’s the kicker on that budget request. Just like with the newly hired call center workers, it wouldn’t cost A DIME of state tax dollars to take on these workers. But the gerrymandered GOP Legislature has refused to let that happen.
Pressure on DSPS has mounted as Republicans have refused to fully authorize the department’s requests for more staff over the past four years — even though the agency’s $62.5 million budget comes almost entirely from fees. The agency runs on revenue from construction permits and 200-plus types of professional licenses from nearly half a million license holders — not taxpayer dollars.

In fact, the department has amassed a $47 million surplus from those fees, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. The surplus was $4.4 million a decade ago. However DSPS can’t use that money to pay for more staff or technology upgrades without legislative buy-in.
So the WisGOPs do nearly nothing to deal with the delays and backlogs in licensing, but don't do much to help the situation, and leave it to the Evers Administration to deal with these things, and they then complain about the current situation when it's not fixed fast enough. (the comparison between this act by WisGOP and the DC GOPs newfound concern about deficits and debts is not a coincidence).

This is also yet another reason that we are so lucky that Tony Evers won election in 2018, and is still on the job today. Think about what a complete train wreck DSPS's underresourced systems were under Scott Walker, and would have continued to have been if Gov Dropout had stayed in office. Does anyone in their right minds think that Walker would have done anything to solve the problems caused by his neglect? Like so many other things with Walker, he would have deflected blame, then panicked and sold off an overpriced contract to a donor to give the appearance of caring about the problem, with no follow up to see if service was truly improving.

If GOPs truly care about getting more Wisconsin workers licensed and in clearing this backlog, let's see them use some of that $47 million that's lying around, maybe even in a special session before the budget is even discussed. But that requires actual work vs posing and complaining, and WisGOPs really don't like to do actual work, or pretty much anything that might improve things for everyday Wisconsinites.

No comments:

Post a Comment