Wisconsin Republicans to order audit of licensing backlog

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican lawmakers were poised Tuesday to order an audit of a Wisconsin agency that has taken weeks to issue professional licenses, causing lengthy delays for thousands of workers across the state.

The Department of Safety and Professional Services oversees licensing for hundreds of occupations including doctors, nurses, construction and trade workers, accountants and tattoo artists. It reported an average wait time of 45 days for professional licenses last August, down from nearly 80 days in 2021.

The Republican-controlled Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee was scheduled to meet Tuesday to consider a proposed audit of the department’s license processing.

“We have way too many people waiting way too long for licenses,” Rep. Robert Wittke, committee co-chair, said at a news conference. “We need to understand what the issues are and get this resolved.”

Ahead of the meeting, Democrats sent a letter to the committee’s Republican co-chairs saying the proposed audit would only further burden the staff responsible for issuing licenses.

Republicans made license delays a campaign issue during Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ reelection bid last fall, accusing him of hamstringing Wisconsin’s workforce. But the department has blamed the backlog on inadequate staffing.

Republican lawmakers have rejected Evers’ requests to fund staff positions to address delays.

The department is funded almost entirely by fees it collects from licensing and inspections, but it is unable to use its budget surplus of more than $47 million to hire more staff without legislative approval.

In its budget request published in December, the department asked for 70 new full-time positions. Gov. Tony Evers will release his budget on Feb. 15, which the Republican-controlled Legislature will then rewrite over the coming months.


Harm Venhuizen is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Venhuizen on Twitter.

All contents © copyright 2023 Associated Press. All rights reserved