Legislative Agenda

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Through the annual legislative program, the City of Janesville administration strategically communicates its legislative priorities to federal and state legislators and the public.

Each year City staff develops federal and state legislative agendas which are officially adopted by the City Council. The agendas include the City’s primary legislative priorities for the coming year.

2017 Federal Legislative Agenda

  • Increased Support for Transportation Programs: Federal programs and funding are essential for local street, bridge, transit, bicycle/pedestrian and interstate improvements. We are pleased that Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, a five year, comprehensive transportation bill. The FAST Act allows us to better plan for and advance much needed local, state and federal road projects by maintaining programs and funding shares. However, the FAST Act’s funding increase of just 11 percent over five years falls short of this nation’s transportation needs. We urge Congress to continue prioritizing transportation by fully funding Wisconsin’s transportation priorities and returning Wisconsin’s fair share of dollars; allowing states to explore tolling by removing federal obstacles such as prohibiting the establishment of tolls on existing interstates; and assuring the long-term health of the Highway Trust Fund by allowing the federal fuel tax to be indexed to inflation. The current federal fuel tax has not been adjusted since 1993.
  • Funding Support for Public Transit: Today, Americans rely more than ever on public transit. The Janesville Transit System (JTS) meets the transportation needs of the public by providing daily bus service within Janesville and regionally, allowing citizens to get to work, school and essential services such as healthcare. Federal funding is vital to supporting JTS’ capital needs and daily operations. We are encouraged that Congress passed the FAST Act, which increases dedicated bus funding by 89 percent over five years. However, federal transit funding is not distributed equitably to states. Currently, Wisconsin accounts for two percent of the nation’s population but receives just one percent of the funding. Under the previous transportation program, capital funding for bus fleet management was significantly reduced. We remind Congress of the importance of funding for the Bus and Bus Related Facilities program to provide adequate support to transit systems for major equipment replacements.
  • Continued Support for Housing and Community Development Programs:  Federally-backed housing and community development programs are critical to assisting Janesville’s citizens and supporting the local economy. The City understands that the nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development plans to prioritize efforts to promote self-sufficiency and lead hazards mitigation. Within the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program, agencies may offer a Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program, which can be an effective approach to helping families build financial independence. Unfortunately, the City of Janesville is unable to provide a FSS Program due to insufficient administrative funding and FSS grants being restricted to current recipients. In order to help families grow income and reduce reliance on other direct assistance programs, we urge Congress to consider establishing a fixed dollar amount per resident participating in the HCV Program to be used for FSS assistance. This would increase the number of participating agencies, and ultimately, reduce the number of families depending on direct assistance programs. In addition, we urge Congress to eliminate income targeting requirements for households participating in the Rent Assistance Program. Income targeting restricts new admissions for those with income between 30 and 50% of County Median Income (CMI) to 25% of new admissions. Restricting those who have very low income from participating withholds assistance from those who may be best positioned to obtain self-sufficiency and creates an unfortunate disincentive for applicants to reduce their income in order to receive needed assistance. As an example, we will be unable to assist a veteran family of one earning $13,000 who applied the morning we opened our waiting list for at least 5 years. Eliminating income targeting will have a greater impact in reducing long-term dependence on the program. The City also requests that Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnership (HOME) funding remain a budgetary priority. In addition to revitalizing neighborhoods, encouraging home ownership, improving the quality of housing, providing employment opportunities, and stabilizing property values in aging neighborhoods, the City utilizes CDBG to mitigate lead hazards in residential properties.

  • Railroad Safety and Disclosure of Hazardous Materials: When emergency events involving trains occur, local first responders are tasked with protecting life and property within the affected communities. However, railroad companies have little responsibility to those municipalities. We are pleased that the FAST Act included the requirement that local first responders be informed about hazardous materials traveling through their jurisdiction before the train arrives. However, this is just a starting point and the requirements should be expanded. For instance, local emergency personnel should be informed about materials in rail cars that are stored in yards and any “offlloading” of material that may occur within their jurisdiction. We ask Congress to continue refining rail safety and reporting requirements so that railroad companies are accountable to the local municipalities that shoulder the responsibility for managing rail-related emergency events.

2017 State Legislative Agenda

  • Restoration of Fiscal Local Control: Municipalities are the form of government closest to citizens and provide essential services such as public safety, water and wastewater systems, paved and plowed streets, and much more. Despite the great responsibility municipalities assume, the State has stripped the local ability to generate revenue in order to continue to meet citizen expectations. Due to State restrictions on revenue sources, Wisconsin municipalities have historically relied on State aids and property taxes as the primary means to provide services. However, state shared revenue has declined, and with levy limits, municipalities may only increase property tax levies by the percentage increase in equalized value from net new construction. In 2017, this equates to 1.05 percent for Janesville, which does not keep up with many of the City’s rising costs due to inflation and results in an effective loss of buying power. Fiscally prudent municipalities, such as Janesville, where the property tax per capita is fourth lowest among our 14 peer communities, are especially disadvantaged by levy limits. Municipalities in other states with levy restrictions, such as Illinois, have managed by relying on a local sales tax. Unlike municipalities in other states, Wisconsin cities have very little ability to generate revenue from non-residents that utilize City programs and services such as public safety, infrastructure, parks and more. Like Wisconsin counties, municipalities should have the ability to implement a local option sales tax. We estimate that in 2016, a 0.5 percent sales tax in Janesville would have generated $7.8 million in revenue for the City, paid in portion by non-residents that use services in Janesville, the economic hub in our region, while diminishing our reliance on property taxpayers and state aid. The legislature should restore local fiscal control by either removing levy limits or revising the law to allow municipalities to increase their levies by a maximum of inflation plus the value of net new construction. Additionally, municipalities should be authorized the ability to implement a 0.5 percent local option sales tax.    
  • Fair and Equitable Distribution of State Shared Revenue: The existing method for distribution of shared revenue to municipalities is inequitable. The City of Janesville receives just $80 per resident in shared revenue while our 14 peer communities receive an average of $179 per resident. The City of Janesville has been a fiscally-responsible steward of taxpayer dollars with the third lowest property tax rate and fourth lowest property tax per capita among our 14 peer communities. State shared revenue is vital to our ability to provide public services to our citizens and should be distributed among municipalities in a fair and equitable manner. If Janesville received state shared revenue that was equal to that of the average peer city, it would equate to an increase of approximately $6.3 million each year, more than doubling Janesville’s current distribution. We request that the legislature “unfreeze” and annually recalculate shared revenue, allowing for factors such as population and assessed value growth to determine distribution.
  • Adequate Transportation Funding for Local Roads and Public Transit: The City of Janesville urges our State officials to find a viable and long-term strategy for addressing Wisconsin’s transportation needs while also providing increased funding for local road projects and public transit. Additionally, we ask our legislators to work with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to manage the Urban Surface Transportation Program in a predictable and common sense way in order to ensure local communities receive full funding as allocated under federal legislation. Local roads and reliable public transit are vital to our city’s economy and quality of life. More Americans than ever rely on public transit to get to school, work and essential services. In light of insufficient federal funding for capital investment, we urge the legislature to restore transit funding to historic levels.
  • "Dark Store" Property Assessment Appeals and the Personal Property Tax: Evolution of the property assessment process is occurring through court case law. Increasingly, fragmented court decisions are resulting in a loss of tax uniformity and the potential for a shift of the tax burden away from national and global corporations to small business and residential property owners. A recent strategy of some national retail chains is to appeal property assessments, arguing their properties should be valued the same as vacant or abandoned stores. These “dark store” claims result in a shift of the tax burden to residential property owners and are costly for municipalities to fight. We urge the legislature to pass legislation that ends the dark store tax strategy. Additionally, repealing the personal property tax has recently been a conversation at the State level. Over 80 percent of personal property is located in cities and villages, equating to $270 million in lost revenue for municipalities. The City opposes repealing the personal property tax without comprehensive and realistic plans for addressing the resulting tax shift.
  • Regulation of Cell Phone Towers: Prior to 2013, local jurisdictions had the authority to regulate cell phone towers in residential neighborhoods. Today, municipalities have little control over where cell towers are located and how they look. The portion of 2013 Act 20 relating to cell towers took authority away from local governments and gave it to telecommunications companies. The City supports legislation similar to 2015 AB 905 which would restore municipal authority to regulate the location of cell towers within residential neighborhoods.

On January 13, 2017, the City hosted a State Legislative Roundtable Discussion to discuss the City's agenda with our State Legislators. To view the slides from that discussion, please click here

Contact Your Legislators

United States:

 Senator Tammy Baldwin 
 717 Hart Senate Office Building 
 Washington, D.C. 20510
 http://www.baldwin.senate.gov/
 
 Senator Ron Johnson 
 328 Hart Senate Office Building
 Washington, D.C. 20510
  http://www.ronjohnson.senate.gov/
 
 Speaker Paul Ryan 
 H-232 The Capitol
 Washington, D.C. 20515
 https://paulryan.house.gov/

 

State of Wisconsin:

 Senator Stephen Nass 
 11th Senate District
 Room 10 South, State Capitol
 Madison, WI 53707
 http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/11/nass
 
 Senator Janis Ringhand
 15th Senate District
 Room 22 South, State Capitol
 Madison, WI 53707
 http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/15/ringhand
 
 Representative Amy Loudenbeck
 31st Assembly District
 Room 306 East, State Capitol
 P.O. Box 8952 
 Madison, WI 53708
 http://legis.wisconsin.gov/assembly/31/loudenbeck
 
 Representative Debra Kolste
 44th Assembly District
 Room 8 North, State Capitol
 P.O. Box 8952 
 Madison, WI 53708
 http://legis.wisconsin.gov/assembly/44/kolste

 

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