June 20, 2013

Working for you!

Assembly Passes State Budget Package

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.

Flexible 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 purpose revenue.
  • We invested in infrastructure (roads/bridges) and our tourism industry.
  • 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 the budget:

  • 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 budget.

Regardless of any merits, I don't think these provisions should have been included in our state budget.

I have 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 you.

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 citizens.

Coming Soon: Survey Results

I appreciate that so many of you returned my 2013 Spring Survey or completed it online or via phone. Your answers are still trickling in and my office is tallying the results.  As soon as we're finished, I'll send a special e-update reporting the answers. Again, thanks for your input!

My Madison Office

I live in Greenville, but have an office at the State Capitol in Madison. If you are in downtown Madison, please feel free to stop by and say hello! Just go to the information desk in the rotunda, and they can direct you on how to find my office, 304 North. At the bottom of each e-news, you'll see my office contact information.

If your school is touring the Capitol building this spring, please let me know. I'd love to visit with you for a few minutes and take a group photo.

Remember, anyone can watch the Assembly in session (and many committee meetings, as well) through WisconsinEye.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

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Rep.Murphy@legis.wisconsin.gov State Capitol Room 304 North - PO Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 Toll Free: (888) 534-0056 or (608) 266-7500