Budget Committee Takes a Positive Step in Improving Public Involvement
Involving Stakeholders in Family Care Changes Could Serve as a Model for Other Budget Improvements
Republican leaders on the Joint Finance Committee announced a significant improvement in the state budget today – or at least in the process for developing and approving one part of the budget, the changes relating to community-based long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities. Let’s hope that similar improvements are made in other parts of the budget that have comparable problems.
One of the very troubling things about the Governor’s budget bill is that it contains sweeping changes that circumvent the usual processes for involving stakeholders and advisory committees in the development of public policy proposals. Among the numerous examples of that, perhaps the most troublesome was the dramatic set of changes to community based long-term care provided through the Family Care and IRIS programs. The development of those changes totally excluded the usual advisory role of stakeholders, and was even a surprise to the agency that has been administering those programs.
It came as a huge relief when the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) co-chairs, as well as Rep. Knudson and Senator Vukmir, announced today that they will take the proposed long-term care changes out of the budget so they can be considered in a process that facilitates public and stakeholder involvement. Their plan will give the Department of Health Services authority to negotiate with the federal government on potential changes to Family Care, but they set out a number of procedural and substantive requirements. In addition to requiring “public and stakeholder input before any changes are made,” they said that whatever proposals are developed will have to be approved by the JFC before any waiver application is submitted by the state to the federal government.
I applaud the co-chairs and other legislators who insisted that the dramatic changes proposed by the Governor should be pulled back, in order to provide a far more public and deliberative process for making any reforms in the Family Care and IRIS programs.
Unfortunately, this is not the only area of the budget bill that makes sweeping changes that have bypassed the role of advisory committees and have minimized any opportunity for public input. Another example is the broad array of changes in Wisconsin’s unemployment insurance system – a set of very significant changes that would circumvent the role of the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) Advisory Council.
As I wrote in a previous blog post, excluding those entities and others like them from any role in making policy changes consolidates power, politicizes decision-making, and will ultimately make state policies far more volatile as the political winds change.
Although the Joint Finance Committee has given the Governor most of what he has proposed in this budget, there have been some signs of independence – including today’s announcement relating to Family Care and also the committee’s previous votes to preserve the Natural Resources Board and the Board for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The committee should be consistent and preserve the very valuable role played by other advisory bodies, such as the UI Advisory Council.