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Wisconsin is getting speedier when it comes to granting professional licenses, audit finds

Lawmakers discussed findings from the nonpartisan audit at a public hearing this week

doctor with stethoscope
Thomas Kienzle/AP Photo

Wisconsin is getting speedier when it comes to giving out professional licenses.

That’s according to a nonpartisan audit, which lawmakers on Wisconsin’s joint audit committee discussed during a hearing Tuesday.

The Republican-led legislative committee ordered the probe into Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services, or DSPS, last year amid complaints about long waits from people seeking occupational licenses.

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The agency oversees credentials for more than 200 types of jobs ranging from physicians to plumbers.

Last fiscal year, it took the agency an average of 59 days to grant health care licenses. That’s more than twice as fast compared to the preceding two fiscal years, when those licenses took over 120 days on average.

Auditors attributed the improvement in part to a new online health care licensing system, which Wisconsin rolled out in May 2022.

Processing times have sped up for other types of licenses, as well, the review found.

It took an average of 17 days to issue licenses in the trades last fiscal year, compared to nearly 47 days three years prior. It also took an average of 28 days for business licenses, a number that was previously close to 51 days.

Dan Hareth, who’s been leading DSPS as secretary for roughly 18 months, says the process is speeding up despite higher volumes.

“Work that we were once measuring in months, and then in weeks not that long ago, is now being measured in days,” Hareth told state legislators Tuesday.

Last fiscal year, DSPS gave out roughly 43,500 initial credentials — a marked increase compared to the 28,800 it granted three years prior — according to the audit.

The latest data on the agency’s public-facing dashboard shows, over the last 12 months, it took DSPS a median of 27 days to grant a license, with a majority of licenses granted within two weeks.

Nonetheless, the recently-released audit focused on some of the most complicated license types by zeroing in on the 100 health credentials in Wisconsin’s online system that took the most time to process.

For the those credentials, the average wait was nearly 190 days during the last fiscal year. Pharmacists and social workers faced the longest wait times at more than 260 days on average, the review found.

Although Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled Legislature has not granted all of the licensing positions requested by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in recent budget cycles, the audit noted that overall funding for Wisconsin’s credentialing process has gone up. That funding increased to about $8 million in the 2023-5 budget compared to $1.5 million a decade prior, the audit found.