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Budget committee approves consolidating state agency services

May 24, 2017 GMT

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to consolidate human resources and information technology positions within most state agencies got a thumbs up from the Legislature’s budget committee Tuesday.

Democrats railed against the proposal, saying similar attempts to reduce costs by consolidating agencies in other states hasn’t saved money and in some cases has cost more. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau said based on a consultant’s analysis it’s equally possible the move will save money and cost money.

The Joint Finance Committee is reviewing Walker’s 2017-19 spending plan and adopting recommendations or making changes.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said the Legislature shouldn’t give any more power to “King Walker.”

“What we’re doing is giving more and more power to the administration and creating sole power within Governor Walker and taking away the balance of the Legislature,” Taylor said.

Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, the former chief human resources officer at Oshkosh Corp., said companies and different levels of government have moved to a shared services model for different functions for more than a decade.

“This is nothing earth-shattering like it’s never been out there before,” Rohrkaste said. “It’s actually very common and made a lot of sense.”

The committee also adopted a provision that would require the Department of Administration when renewing a state office building lease to analyze the costs and benefits of owning a building, and also to examine lease options within a 10-mile radius. The Joint Finance Committee would have a chance to review the lease if a member objected.

Drug screening

By a 12-4 vote, the budget-writing committee also approved requiring about 14,000 people who apply for Wisconsin Works jobs programs to be screened for drugs.

The proposal is part of Walker’s state budget.

The plan would require screening for drugs in order to participate in three W-2 work programs. Drug screening has already been required for four other state-run work programs since 2015.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that about 56 people would test positive for drugs under the expanded screening and then be referred for treatment.

Given the low numbers of people expected to be tested, the cost of expanding the screening, testing and treatment is expected to be minimal.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.