Wisconsin counties praise Walker's county spending plan

Markets Associated Press

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told county government leaders Tuesday that his state budget will eliminate the waiting list for long-term care affecting about 2,200 children with developmental, physical or severe emotional disabilities.

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The $39 million to do that was just part of a package of increased spending for counties that Walker unveiled to more than 200 officials at the Wisconsin Counties Association annual legislative exchange meeting.

He's also calling for more money for to support nursing homes, foster care, drug courts and family aids.

Walker's proposals won praise from Mark O'Connell, head of the WCA, who said the "significant investments" Walker detailed addressed many of the priorities of county governments.

Walker will include the funding recommendations in the budget he releases Wednesday. Highlights of his proposals for counties include:

— spending $6.2 million more for county child welfare services. The total amount over the two-year budget would be about $145 million.

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— increasing foster care and kinship care payments by 2.5 percent a year, which comes to $3 million. The basic rate would increase from $232 to $238 per month in 2018 and go up again in 2019 to $244.

— bolstering nursing home provider rates by 2 percent a year, at a cost of $51.5 million. Walker also wants to increase by 1 percent each of the next two years to intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities.

— adding $4 million to spend $9 million over two years on grants for a program designed to keep high-risk, non-violent offenders out of jail.

— spending $15 million more to increase payments by 2 percent to workers who help disabled people.

— increasing funding for drug courts by $300,000, for a total of $1.3 million. The courts are specifically designed to help offenders dealing with substance abuse issues.

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