Wisconsin State Capitol (Baylor Spears | Wisconsin Examiner)
Republican lawmakers rejected a request on Tuesday from the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) to grant the agency additional positions and funding through the end of 2025.
Gov. Tony Evers called on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) to approve additional positions and funding last month, after announcing that he would be using federal funds to allow the agency to keep its current levels of staffing through 2024. He said the agency would have fewer credentialing employees after the federal money runs out, which could have negative effects on the progress the agency has made to improve licensing and processing times, unless lawmakers acted.
“Failing to approve this critical request will be detrimental to the improvements DSPS has already worked to make while jeopardizing efforts to build upon this progress in the future,” Evers said in a statement.
Democrats introduced a motion during Tuesday’s meeting to approve 7.25 positions and $118,200 in fiscal year 2023-24 and $1.3 million in fiscal year 2024-25 for DSPS. Two of those positions are set to expire at the end of the month, while five others will expire on Dec. 31, 2024.
Rep. Tip McGuire (D-Kenosha) emphasized at the meeting that there will be fewer positions overall at DSPS after the federal positions expire.
“We didn’t fund enough positions in the budget and we’re going to need these positions in order to maintain our current efforts, which appear to be making progress,” McGuire said.
The agency, which is responsible for issuing professional licenses, has been criticized in recent years due to significant delays in the processing and approval of professional licenses with many residents waiting months before receiving approval.
The agency has been working to improve licensing efficiency at the department. According to testimony provided in March of this year, the agency has been able to reduce the average license processing time from 45 days to 38 days.
During budget negotiations, the Evers administration requested 74 new positions at the agency, but Republican lawmakers only granted the agency 17.75 new positions.
According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo about the new request, the agency said the additional position authority is needed to maintain or reduce current processing times for credentials.
The committee voted 10-4 along party lines to reject the motion. Republican lawmakers did not comment on the issue during the meeting.
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