Wisconsin Public Radio

Wisconsin Licensing Division Will See Budget Increase

The Department of Safety and Professional Services has been criticized for delays.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Jul 14th, 2023 11:05 am
Gov. Tony Evers smiles as he holds the freshly signed biennial budget Wednesday, July 5, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Gov. Tony Evers smiles as he holds the freshly signed biennial budget Wednesday, July 5, 2023, at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

The department that oversees professional licensing is getting a funding boost in the state’s new biennial budget, although staffing levels will be far below the level initially proposed by Gov. Tony Evers.

Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services oversees credentials for hundreds of professions ranging from social workers to plumbers, but it’s come under criticism over licensing delays.

The Democratic governor asked for close to 80 additional full-time equivalent positions to staff the agency in the current budget cycle, but the Republican-led Legislature ultimately approved less than a quarter of that amount at close to 18 positions.

Democratic state Rep. Tip McGuire of Kenosha said most of those are temporary project positions spanning two or four years.

“In a workforce shortage, it’s going to get harder for the state of Wisconsin to hire people when we can only promise them a limited term employment,” said McGuire, who’s among the Democratic minority on the Legislature’s powerful Joint Committee on Finance. “If you are unhappy with the amount of coverage that the Department of Safety and Professional Services currently has, then you should be disappointed in the Republican legislature, which provided fewer positions.”

In all, lawmakers allocated close to $145 million for the Department and Safety and Professional Services over the next two fiscal years, a more than 18 percent increase. The department’s budget includes more than $6 million for technological investments, including software and equipment — improvements that Republican lawmakers said should improve efficiency.

“This motion provides significant upgrades and technology for the agency, which is going to help them to perform their jobs,” Joint Committee on Finance Co-Chair Howard Marklein, R- Spring Green, said during a budget committee meeting last month. “And also, we provide a number of positions, almost 18 positions, to the agency to help them with increased capacity.”

Marc Herstand, who leads Wisconsin’s chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said he’s disappointed in lawmakers for not fully funding the agency’s staffing request. He says more robust staffing would be possible if the legislature allowed the department to spend its licensing fee revenue on hiring more employees.

“If we’re wanting to our state agencies to be run as a business, then allow them to run as a business,” he said. “Give them the authority to hire the staff, so they can meet the increased demand the increased number of customers.”

DSPS Secretary-Designee Dan Hereth told lawmakers this spring the time for processing and issuing licenses was down to an average of 38 days, compared to an average of 45 days when he started the role in August 2022, and nearly 80 days as of several years ago. A review of DSPS operations is ongoing after being ordered by the Republican-controlled Legislative Audit Committee earlier this year.

Evers signed Wisconsin’s new budget last week. It took effect retroactively at the start of the fiscal year July 1st.

State auditors are being asked to look into Wisconsin’s timeline for granted state licenses with an eye to how the process could be improved.

Listen to the WPR report here

Wisconsin’s licensing agency is getting a budget boost, but much less than the governor asked for was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio

One thought on “Wisconsin Licensing Division Will See Budget Increase”

  1. Mingus says:

    The Republicans regularly refuse to fund programs then complain that these programs are not doing their jobs. Some Republicans think that an State oversight of professions is an overreach and would like to get rid of this department altogether which would force the consumers to have to deal with persons fraudulently claiming that they have the skills sets of licensed and certified professionals.

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