March 17, 2017

WI Budget Headquarters

Go Public with YOUR story and testify in support of a budget that ensures our communities thrive!

Sign up here to join us at the upcoming Joint Finance Committee (JFC) public hearings on the 2017-2019 biennial budget!

YOUR VOICE MATTERS! If you are interested in connecting to the regional Budget Action Planning team in your area to participate in Joint Finance Committee Hearing actions and share your concerns about the budget at the hearings and in your community, please contact the Wisconsin Leadership Development Project coordinator listed for your region:

  • NORTHEAST (Berlin and Marinette hearings): Carol Lenz ( and Ann Muenster (
  • NORTHWEST (Spooner and Ellsworth hearings): Jeff Smith ( and Bob Wright (
  • SOUTHWEST (Platteville hearing): Ellen Lindgren ( and Carlene Bechen (
  • SOUTHEAST (Milwaukee hearing): Jenni Hofschulte ( and Stacy Lynch (

Each region has a local team working on research, testimony, and plans to make the day of the Joint Finance Committee hearings impactful, accessible, and enjoyable. Join the movement and be part of raising your voice in the democratic process! Those who wish to testify are welcome to join these efforts and should contact the regional coordinator for more information. Issue areas include: public education, environment, healthcare, higher ed, and more.

Joint Finance Committee Hearing Schedule (confirmed!):

  • Monday, April 3 – UW-Platteville, Platteville
  • Wednesday, April 5 – State Fair Park, Milwaukee
  • Friday, April 7 – Berlin High School, Berlin
  • Tuesday, April 18 – Spooner High School, Spooner
  • Wednesday, April 19 – Ellsworth High School, Ellsworth
  • Friday, April 21 – Marinette High School, Marinette

Why should you speak out on the Wisconsin Biennial Budget? 

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) public hearings are the place where citizens give testimony directly to the elected officials who are responsible for creating Wisconsin’s next two-year budget. This is the public’s opportunity – and obligation – to ensure that our tax dollars are invested in strong, thriving communities.

In previous years, however, we have learned that time to speak at JFC hearings is precious – each person gets only two minutes to speak, often after waiting for many hours. We also know that JFC members can reject the proposed budget and start over from “base budget” once they meet in executive session after the hearings, and that they are likely to insert new policy changes in an “omnibus” package before the bill moves forward – and the public won’t have additional opportunity to testify on those changes. In recent years, such proposals as Special Needs Vouchers and the Milwaukee schools takeover plan were passed as part of such a package. This has been a way for lawmakers to pass policy measures that are unlikely to get traction as stand-alone legislation.

So we’ve asked ourselves: What could we do, together, to make sure our voices are heard and every aspect of our issues that deserve attention are given careful consideration by decision-makers? How can we make sure that all the education issues that matter are fully considered at these hearings? How can we make sure that we are painting a clear, accurate picture of the impacts of budget decisions on the students in our communities and schools?

Our answer: organize to unite at the JFC hearings.

This effort is organized by volunteers from various grassroots organizations around the state (including partners from the Wisconsin Public Education Network, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Citizen Action, and many others), who have connected through the Wisconsin Leadership Development (WiLD) project. Our purpose is to increase the visibility and impact of our efforts by raising our voices together. We will do this by connecting at and in advance of the hearings to prepare and develop strong testimony, and ensure that we are informed and effective messengers on the issues that matter most to our communities.

Joint Finance Committee hearings are open to the public — so why should you join us?

1) Because YOUR VOICE MATTERS! We want to ensure that all the issues that matter most to Wisconsin families are raised in a clear and effective way at the hearings. Our team of organizers, experts and researchers can help you make sure you tell YOUR story in a way that will resonate with decision-makers.

2) To share resources, ideas and concerns in advance of the hearings

3) To bring some fun and excitement to the Joint Finance Committee’s public hearings on the budget by creating space to meet and connect with others in our regions.

4) To help us track the issues that are of most concern to Wisconsinites and provide the resources and support needed to meet the needs of those who plan to testify.

5) If you have not testified at a Joint Finance hearing before, there are procedures and practices that can help you be more effective at telling your story.

Wisconsin Budget overview:
The Wisconsin Budget Process (Wisconsin Budget Project)

2017-2019 Budget Resources:

Governor Walker’s Executive Budget proposal, 2017-2019 (Department of Administration)
Summary of the Governor’s Budget (Department of Public Instruction)
Summary of the Governor’s Proposed Budget for K-12 Education (Wisconsin Budget Project)
Analysis of the Governor’s Proposed Budget – Legislative Fiscal Bureau
Dr. Tony Evers’ Budget Proposal: Full version. Summary version.
Department of Public Instruction budget resource page
A Wisconsin Budget For All

Helpful Handouts:

Joint Finance Committee Hearings: Everything You Need to Know
Tips for Building Relationships with Elected Officials
Testimony Pro-Tips + How to Testify if You Can’t Attend JFC Hearings in Person
Wisconsin Budget Action Guide (materials from WiLD Budget Action Workshops)

*If you can’t make it in person to one of the public hearings, the JFC Clerk has assured us that both written and video testimony mailed to will be entered into the public record as official testimony. Use subject line: Testimony on 2017-2019 Budget for Public Record and cc your own legislators.

Members of the Joint Finance Committee:

Co-Chair Sen. Alberta Darling (R) (SD 8) River Hill
Co-Chair Rep. John Nygren (R) (AD 89) Marinette
Vice Chair Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R) (AD 14) Brookfield
Vice Chair Sen. Luther Olsen (R) (SD 14) Ripon
Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R) (SD 10) River Falls
Sen. Howard Marklein (R) (SD 17) Spring Green
Sen. Thomas Tiffany (R) (SD 12) Hazelhurst
Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) (SD 5) Brookfield
Ranking Dem Sen. Lena Taylor (D) (SD 4) Milwaukee
Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D) (SD 27) Middleton
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R) (AD 31) Clinton
Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R) (AD 35) Irma
Rep. Mark Born (R) (AD 39) Beaver Dam
Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R) (AD 55) Neenah
Rep. Gordon Hintz (D) (AD 54) Oshkosh
Rep. Katrina Shankland (D) (AD 71) Stevens Point
Committee Clerk: Joe Malkasian: (608) 264-8314 –

Email addresses for Joint Finance Committee members:

How to prepare effective testimony:

Start with a clear ask: make explicit exactly what change you want to see. BE SPECIFIC
Tell your story. Why do you care so much about this issue? Why does it matter to you? Share specific moments that demonstrate the impacts of this issue in your life and your community or school.
Connect it to others. Why should others care? How does the issue that matters to you matter to all of us? SHOW this through specific examples of how we are connected.
Demonstrate the urgency. What change do you want to see and why does this change need to happen now?
Be positive and aspirational. Focus on what you are FOR, not what you are against. Remember: legislators could go back to a “base budget.” They need to know what your local schools need to meet the needs of all students.
Get the facts and MAKE IT LOCAL. Avoid making blanket statements and focus on the local impacts of the state budget. Talk to your superintendent or business manager and understand what your district needs. Is $200/pupil enough? How much spendable aid per pupil does your district need? What would it look like if your district saw an increase in special education funding? And take advantage of our team of experts ready to vet your testimony for accuracy.
Be prepared to use your time wisely. Individuals will be allowed two minutes each at the microphone. Always start by stating your full name and city/district. Groups of 3 or more will be allowed 5 minutes total.
Practice! 2 minutes of testimony is about 250 words. Make sure your story is clear, vivid and paints a local picture of why you care — and that you include your budget request. Be prepared to deliver your testimony in 2 minutes, as public testimony is usually strictly timed.
Be memorable. Consider purchasing one of our Go Public t-shirts (available first-come first served on site, or in advance through your regional coordinators). Or bring school spirit by wearing your local district’s colors & gear. Having us spread out in the audience with matching shirts is a very strong visual statement of support for students and public schools.
Stand united. Group testimony gets the attention of listeners and can send a message of unity. Consider bringing a group of parents, educators, administrators, board members, and community leaders with you. Be sure all of your names are included on the written testimony you submit to the clerk.
Visual aids—photos of people you are talking about, or your school, or a chart or graph can be effective for visual learners.
Amplify your message! Once your testimony is ready to go, share it widely! It’s not enough that legislators hear what you have to say. Make sure your friends and neighbors know why you are standing up and speaking out, and what concerns are most pressing for your schools. Consider submitting your testimony as a letter to the editor of your local paper, share it online on your team’s website, post it on social media, and make a video sharing your concerns! Use #GoPublic and #WIBudget2017.
Make it official! When submitting written testimony (by email or snail mail), be sure to ask that your budget testimony be entered into the public record. Bring 3 hard copies of your testimony to the JFC hearing with you to present for the same purpose (one copy for the clerk, one for our team when you check in, and one to read). Use subject line: BUDGET TESTIMONY FOR PUBLIC RECORD. Make sure your message includes your full name and address, and include the testimony in the body of the email (not as an attachment).

This page is updated regularly as new budget information emerges. Please check back often to stay informed and up-to-date on budget news and actions!