Wisconsin Joint Finance to Cities, Counties: Good Luck Getting Insurance!

April 22, 2015

Local governments in Wisconsin may be forced to buy property insurance on the private market after the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee agreed with Republican Gov. Scott Walker and decided to end a state fund that has sold them insurance since 1911.

The committee’s action was part of its work on Walker’s proposed 2015-17 state budget where the governor proposed ending the state’s Local Government Property Insurance Fund after July 1, 2017. The committee’s 12 Republicans and four Democrats unanimously decided to end the program on July 1, 2019.

The fund currently provides $52 billion in insurance coverage for nearly 1,000 Wisconsin school districts, towns, villages, cities, counties, and other government entities.

The governor wants local governments to get insurance from the private market instead of the state. But the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, which encouraged its members to contact legislators to oppose the elimination of the fund, said the existing program offered excellent coverage at affordable rates.

Walker accepted $215,471 in individual and political action committee contributions from property and casualty insurers between January 2011, and Oct. 20, 2014. During the same time, 10 GOP legislators on the finance committee collected a total of $6,850 from the industry, led by the committee co-chair, Rep. John Nygren of Marinette, at $2,650; Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green, $1,300; and Rep. Mary Czaja of Irma, $800. None of the committee’s four Democratic members received contributions from the industry during the period.

The Joint Finance Committee’s changes in the next several weeks to Walker’s proposed budget will be considered early this summer by the full legislature before it goes back to the governor for final approval.

Current legislators accepted more than $28,000 in campaign contributions from property and casualty insurers between January 2011, and Oct. 20, 2014. The bulk of those contributions – $25,640 – went to Republicans, who control both houses of the legislature.