After approval of the biennial budget by the Senate and Assembly, Governor Walker signed the 2015-2017 state budget into law on Sunday, July 12 and in the process, issued 104 vetoes.
There were two vetoes of particular interest to MEUW members:
- Veto 43 – Alternative Telecommunications Utilities (ATU) – The Joint Finance Committee approved a repeal of the PSC’s authority to require ATUs to obtain commission approval before abandoning or discontinuing a line, extension or service under current law. Governor Walker’s veto restored the PSC’s authority, saying “I am vetoing this provision because I do not believe the commission's authority regarding alternative telecommunications utilities should be modified in this manner. These changes would shift responsibility for removing abandoned lines and poles to land owners and municipalities, which may create cost and safety issues. In addition, decisions by providers to abandon service may affect service to customers of interconnected providers. With this veto, the commission's current authority is retained.”
- Veto 44 – PSC Intervenor Compensation (IC) – The Joint Finance Committee repealed the $300,000 annual grant, received historically by the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), and reduced the compensation rate for IC from 100% of the cost of participating in a PSC hearing to 50% of the cost. The total impact of the Joint Finance Committee’s actions was a $671,000 decrease of annual IC. Governor Walker’s veto restored the $300,000 grant and removed the 50% cap; however, IC funding cannot be restored through his veto powers. The Governor said “I am vetoing these sections because they are unnecessarily prescriptive. Under current law, the commission has the flexibility to compensate for some or all of the reasonable costs of participation in commission proceedings. With this veto, the commission can continue to ensure only reasonable costs are reimbursed by its intervenor compensation appropriation and prescribe a match as it deems appropriate.” Total IC for the 2016 state fiscal year is $371,200, including the $300,000 grant restored in the veto. Total IC in the 2015 state fiscal year was $1.04 million.
The budget also included partial repeal of prevailing wage law (see the section below) and restoration of the Local Government Property Insurance Fund.