Wisconsin appears close to approving a 20 percent funding cut to local recycling programs.
The cut, agreed to on May 5 by the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee as part of its larger budget review, will reduce the state’s 2015-2016 fiscal year recycling program budget from $20 million to $16 million. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) uses the funding to award grants to numerous local recycling programs throughout the state.
The budget must be approved by the Assembly and Senate, and signed by its author, Gov. Scott Walker. Under the budget, funding would return to $20 million for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
According to Meleesa Johnson, president of Associated Recyclers of Wisconsin, funding has always been provided as a “cost-sharing” mechanism of the state.
That funding has been cut “incrementally” in recent years, Johnson said, despite the fact that a $7 per ton disposal fee in Wisconsin continues to generate between $33 million to $36 million annually to put toward recycling and waste reduction programs.
“We see less and less of it every year going for recycling, waste reduction and advancements in solid waste management,” Johnson said. “We’re really very frustrated.”
Funding for the state recycling program has fallen each year since the 2008-2009 fiscal year, when the budget reached $28 million.
The $4 million cut for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Johnson says, is being allocated instead to “debt service” related to state-funded wastewater treatment operations.
A spokesperson for Gov. Walker told Resource Recycling the proposed cut is a “one-time reduction” and that funds would be restored to the “base level” of $20 million in 2016-2017.
A paper submitted to legislators by the nonpartisan Fiscal Bureau, which primarily provides budgetary analysis to lawmakers, indicates eroding funding to recycling programs has left local programs with more costs to cover on their own.
In 2006, when the state allocated $26.3 million to local programs, 28 percent of costs were recovered, the paper states. In 2013-2014, funding of $20 million covered approximately 17.5 percent of the costs associated with local government recycling programs.
Madison’s recycling coordinator George Dreckmann told Resource Recycling he doesn’t anticipate Madison will see “any specific changes” to its programs but expects other programs could feel financial impacts.
“It will, I’m sure, have an effect,” Dreckmann, a longtime industry veteran, said. “In some communities the state aid is used to subsidize fees that are paid to haulers. With that money gone, it will be made up for with increased fees for the public.”