On Thursday May 11th, the Joint Committee on Finance met to continue working on changes to the budget Governor Walker introduced in early February. Particularly watched closely by the WBA and other groups representing the construction industry was their review of budget items pertaining to the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).
Ever since the latest update to the Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) went into effect 1/1/16, a primary goal for the WBA concerned the development of Wisconsin-specific software for checking energy code compliance. Currently, most builders in Wisconsin use ResCheck, a software program provided in conjunction with the Department of Energy to ensure that builders are designing and building homes in compliance with the energy code.
However, this program requires that a state’s energy code be “based on the current model code and two previous versions of the model code,” effectively mandating states to follow model energy code guidelines rather than decide for themselves what provisions to accept.
To remedy this situation, the WBA worked with members of the Joint Committee on Finance to add language and funding to the DSPS budget so Wisconsin can create Wisconsin-specific software for energy code compliance. In a vote of 12-4, the Joint Committee on Finance agreed to make this addition to the state budget. The motion to approve this change was authored by the Joint Committee on Finance co-chairs, Representative John Nygren, Senator Alberta Darling, and committee member Senator Tom Tiffany. Committee member Representative Mary Felzkowski was also instrumental in helping to draft this provision.
Another item of concern to the WBA was the language in Governor Walker’s budget proposal that called for the elimination of a DSPS test currently required for plumber and electrician certification in Wisconsin. After receiving feedback from several WBA members and bringing this proposed elimination to the WBA Advocacy
Group meeting in April, the WBA formally joined a coalition of groups working to have this language deleted from the budget proposal, which would allow current testing requirements to continue.
In the weeks leading up to the vote, the WBA worked with the following groups: Associated Builders and Contractors; Mechanical Contractor Association of Wisconsin; Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contactors Association; Wisconsin Onsite Water Recycling Association; Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association; National Electrical Contractors Association; and, the IBEW State Conference. Our coalition effort on this item paid off when the Joint Committee on Finance voted 16-0 to delete this language from the state budget and retain the current law’s testing requirements for plumbers and electricians.
As of this writing, the Joint Committee on Finance will continue their work on the state budget, and there is still a lot of ground to cover before having a final bill to move forward. The WBA will also continue our efforts to advocate for some additions to the state budget that ensure affordable housing options for Wisconsin families.