As for issues we have covered more closely on this site, the final omnibus motion did include some relevant changes. First, the motion mainly left intact the changes to Wisconsin's long-term care programs, Family Care and IRIS, that the JFC made back in may. However, the motion does call for increased opportunities for public input into the Department of Health Services' (DHS) waiver application process to the federal government by requiring DHS to hold two public hearings before submitting the waiver. In addition, DHS will have to provide quarterly reports to the JFC detailing the Department's progress on the waiver request and the Department's discussions with various stakeholders. Despite these new requirements, advocates for older adults and people with disabilities remain very concerned about the future of these long-term care programs under the new model approved by the JFC in May.
The omnibus motion made other relatively minor changes to issues covered on this site, including public K-12 education and voucher schools. The motion also contained what appears to be sweeping changes to regulations of payday lenders by greatly expanding the types of permissible business practices in which payday lenders can engage. Under the proposal, payday lenders would be allowed to sell insurance, provide financial advice, and even operate a currency exchange. Advocates for consumers and low-income people expressed significant concerns that these changes will be detrimental to low-income consumers, who often have limited financial literacy.
The tax motion passed by the committee included an important provision that would allow people with disabilities, or their families, to set up Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts, which are tax-deferred savings accounts for people with disabilities to pay for qualified expenses associated with a disability. According to the Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations, ABLE accounts "allow people with disabilities and their families to contribute their own money to tax-deferred accounts, which can then be withdrawn tax-free to pay for qualified expenses such as educational opportunities, transportation, employment supports, housing and health care. ABLE accounts will foster financial independence for people with disabilities and empower them to privately pay for qualified services without the fear of losing access to needed programs." Advocates for people with disabilities believe current income and asset limitations for public programs that people with disabilities rely on for the services and care they need, such as Medicaid, create a disincentive for people with disabilities to work and earn income. Current law only allows people with disabilities to accumulate $2,000 in assets before losing access to long-term care programs.
The budget was approved by the Senate late last night with a few modifications. The Assembly is debating and voting on the budget today. We will post about the Senate actions shortly and provide updates about the Assembly action once the Assembly finishes its work on the budget. Once the budget is passed in identical forms by both chambers, it will go to the Governor for his signature, at which time he can decide whether to exercise his powerful veto pen to remove individual budget provisions.