The 2013-14 state budget package (2013 Assembly Bill 40) passed the State Assembly, and
is being debated in the Senate as I write this. I voted in
favor of this budget, which I firmly believe will move Wisconsin
forward using common sense and reasonable fiscal management.
During the budget process we wanted to follow these principles:
restraint with government spending; reform the way
government works; and reinvest in education.
and responsive workforce development is critical to our economy,
because it improves our citizens' job skills and helps match
workers with the needs of employers. I have been (and continue
to be) very active on several working groups pertaining to
workforce development, and I'm proud to support a budget with
such great potential to create and sustain more quality jobs.
- We nearly doubled the governor's income tax cuts,
bringing the cuts to more than $665 million, and apply them
to all income tax rates to make it more fair.
- We held the property tax increases on the average
median-valued home to just .99% in 2014 and .98% in 2015.
- We reformed our Unemployment Insurance program in many
ways, one of which helps businesses avoid a $26 million tax
hit because we paid for interest owing out of general
- We invested in infrastructure (roads/bridges) and our
- We funded a venture capital program that will promote
start-up businesses in Wisconsin.
Many elements of this budget hold true to my fiscally
conservative beliefs, yet still ensure that we invest our tax
dollars in ways that have as much positive impact as possible on
the many people who need it. As someone who strongly believes in
our public schools, I am glad that we increased K-12 funding by
$289.1 million. That includes an increase in per pupil funding
of $150/pupil per year.
Constituents were very vocal with me about school choice and
vouchers, with little ambiguity. You either love them or hate
them. I support vouchers, in a limited way, to give some parents
the option to move their child if the public school is not
working for them. That's why I supported both the voucher
expansion (which is still limited) AND increased K-12 funding
for public schools.
As someone who is proud of our university system, but
critical of some of their decisions, I'm proud that we froze
University of Wisconsin tuition and fees, and
increased financial aid to students at technical colleges.
Our budget decreased the number of uninsured Wisconsinites,
and eliminated the waitlist for childless adults up to 100% of
poverty level. Premium assistance through the Affordable Care
Act will be available to 88,500 adults with children who are at
100-200% of the poverty level. And now, people have an avenue to
independence because they get to choose a private sector health
plan, if they wish.
Many of you let me know your support for mass transit
funding, and we increased that by 4%. I also heard from people
concerned about the Stewardship program, and I can tell you we
funded increased access to DNR lands, $12 million in grants for
non-profit conservation organizations and $2.5 million in
recreational boating aids, among other items.
Certainly, no budget will be perfect for every district or
the entire state. While I support this one on the whole, I
requested that Governor Walker veto the following provision in
- Unemployment Insurance tax rate increases. This
is a tax on jobs at a time when we need to be creating them.
This tax falls heavily on the construction and staffing
industries. These industries were hit hard by the recession,
and we need to promote their health because they are big
drivers for jobs in our state. I support nearly all this
year's reforms, but I cannot support increasing taxes on
businesses that help us employ more people.
- Bail bonds. This is a policy item that should
have been debated as a separate bill in both houses. People
have questions about this and many wrote me saying this is
not a good idea. I think it should be handled apart from the
Regardless of any merits, I don't think these provisions
should have been included in our state budget.
talked with many of you on the phone, at local listening
sessions, and at other places in the district. I've read the
hundreds of emails and letters that come to my office, as well.
When you let me know your views on the issues, you help me
represent you to the best of my ability in the Assembly. Thank
Assembly minority leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), said in his
budget remarks, "I believe there's no hope for Wisconsin." I
disagree. I have a great deal of hope for Wisconsin, because of
our people. This budget provides opportunity and keeps us moving
in the right direction while making changes for the good of our