Your legislators' take on state budget
By Gannett Central Wisconsin Media
Three Republican state Assembly representatives in central Wisconsin were among the minority who voted against the GOP-drafted state budget.
Reps. Dave Heaton of the Wausau area, Scott Krug of the Wisconsin Rapids area and Nancy VanderMeer of Tomah joined eight other Assembly Republicans and all 35 Democrats in opposing the two-year budget that is headed to Gov. Scott Walker for his approval.
Legislators from central Wisconsin all cited their own reasons for voting for or against the proposed budget. Following are excerpts from their statements.
Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma
Voted in favor: "This state budget is a product of compromise."
"We heard early on from school districts and parents that the number-one priority was to invest in our schools; the Legislature has answered that call by committing nearly $200 million of additional funds to K-12 education.
"We have also kept our promises to seniors, both by protecting the popular SeniorCare program and by holding the line on property taxes, which are the single biggest fixed-cost for seniors across the Northwoods. We listened and responded to the calls from concerned citizens and advocacy groups all across the state on the need to maintain high-quality health services our most vulnerable residents depend on for daily quality of life. The upcoming budget also helps to ensure our students and workforce can get the training they need to succeed, by continuing the freeze on in-state tuition at UW campuses and providing additional flexibilities for technical colleges."
Voted against: "I believe that by voting no on this budget, I was best expressing the thoughts and views of the people that I represent."
"Included within the budget is a $150,000 grant to Northcentral Technical College to assist in developing its culinary arts program and a $100,000 grant to the Marathon County Economic Development Corp. (MCDEVCO) to establish a revolving loan fund for minority-owned businesses. I am proud to have led the effort to get these grants included in the budget."
"Also included in the budget is (a) ... pilot program that will reimburse dentists at a higher rate for providing care for children in need. At my request, this pilot program was expanded to Marathon County."
"One of the biggest issues I have with this budget is the increase in bonding for transportation. ... There were also items that reflected significant changes that I believe should have been handled outside the budget process as separate legislation. For example, the budget includes a provision that would repeal the prevailing wage for local units of government. ... The unknown impact on our local workers along with the unverified savings were enough to make me take pause on including this item in our budget. Another issue that concerned me was the changes to the room tax law. I heard from some of my local officials that this change was unwelcome and not needed."
"While I'm happy to see some great proposals and projects in the transportation fund, I believe we continue to borrow too much in order to fund it. The proposal to repeal the prevailing wage law should have been a stand-alone bill and never tied to the budget."
"I have heard repeatedly from constituents that we must do more for our classrooms and better respond to the needs of our school districts ... and sadly I felt this budget falls short in allocating sufficient funds to do so."
"In central Wisconsin, we have a very real struggle keeping our natural areas of beauty pristine and exciting for tourists to visit and enjoy. ... I don't feel this budget plan has gone far enough to protect areas like this across the state of Wisconsin. I am concerned with aquatic invasive species invading our local lakes, policy that protects groundwater quality, and policy that enables local governments to make good decisions on these issues."
Voted against: "The Republican budget reveals that their priority is Walker's presidential ambitions, not Wisconsin families."
"This budget cuts $250 million from our universities, including $12 million from UW-Stevens Point over the next two years. It takes millions of dollars away from our public schools and gives it to private, unaccountable voucher schools. It dismantles a long-term care system that seniors and people with disabilities rely on for their independence and quality of care. And it lowers wages and attacks Wisconsin workers' right to a weekend."
"The people of Wisconsin are paying a heavy price as Walker runs for president and legislative Republicans sell out our state's future. I voted for Wisconsin families when I voted against this budget, and I will continue to fight tirelessly for them and their priorities above all else."
Voted in favor:"I believe we have improved the governor's proposed budget and crafted a plan that puts Wisconsin taxpayers first."
"The two year spending plan increases funding for all K-12 education by $200 million. Not only will our education budget be $840 million more than the 2013-2015 budget but a $250 tax deduction has been included for teachers specifically for school supplies. The 2015-2017 budget will also invest in education grants, including youth apprenticeship and adult literacy."
"In this budget the Legislature voted to protect the most vulnerable population. There is more than $1 billion allocated to Medicaid spending, and $500,000 invested to local units of government for fraud prevention, ensuring those who need assistance will receive the help they need.
"Lastly, the 2015-2017 biennial budget held the line on taxes ... by freezing property taxes, freezing our UW tuition costs, simplifying our state's tax code and reducing bonding by $450 million. There is $15 million in Fast Forward grants that will help increase job training grants."
"Over the past several months, I've taken those concerns to heart and have been fighting to improve this budget. Prioritizing our public education system, I'm pleased to report that this budget not only increases the state's investment in K-12 education by $200 million, but it also freezes UW tuition for Wisconsin families. We were also able to make considerable progress in moving to save the popular SeniorCare program and preserve long-term care for our most vulnerable offered through FamilyCare and IRIS.
"However, after much reflection and review of the finer details of this budget, I ultimately cast my vote against its passage.
"One of my primary concerns with the recently adopted budget is the level of borrowing it requires to continue to fund our state's transportation network. With no real solution to solve the insolvency of our aging infrastructure, I fear that a real, sustainable path forward was not presented in this budget. I applauded the efforts of my colleagues to significantly reduce the amount of transportation bonding initially proposed by the governor, but more needs to be done.
"Finally, I truly believe that this budget takes a number of positive steps forward to help our schools, students and teachers. However, I also heard from many of you that this budget simply does not do enough to maintain our public school systems and I agree. I will continue to be an independent voice on education and advocate to find ways to invest in the future of our children.
"Again, I appreciate hearing from so many of you on the many parts of this budget. Please know that this was not an easy decision. However, I feel confident that my vote ultimately reflects the will and wishes of our district. It is and continues to be an honor to represent the 70th Assembly District and I look forward to working with you to continue advocating for our communities here in Madison."
Voted against:"(The budget) contains some of the most extreme and harmful provisions for middle class families I've seen in my years as a legislator."
"I and my colleagues offered amendments that would have reversed the disastrous cuts this budget makes to the University of Wisconsin and helped bring our public schools back up to the level of funding they had five years ago. We tried to reverse the attack on Wisconsin's conservation heritage by restoring funding for the Stewardship Program and DNR scientists. We advanced proposals that would have helped reverse our state's dismal performance on job creation and build Wisconsin's economy. We tried to reverse the proposal to cut wages for Wisconsin workers and outsource construction jobs to out-of-state companies. The majority party rejected every one of our amendments."
"The $2.2 billion budget deficit only occurred because Governor Walker and the GOP majority in the Legislature chose to give massive tax breaks to corporations and refused to take back our federal dollars that would strengthen our state's health care programs, a move that would have saved taxpayers $360 million in this budget alone."
Voted in favor: "I was able to make very positive changes working through the Joint Finance Committee as well as on the floor."
"The governor's proposed cut to K-12 schools was eliminated and aid was increased by $100 per student. We increased funding for transportation and sparsity aid for rural school districts, and allocated additional funds for rural school districts that have been consolidated. The cut to the UW System was reduced by $50 million and base support was increased by an additional $25 million going into the next budget. Proposed changes for Family Care and the IRIS program were rewritten to ensure that program participants have a say in changes that are intended to keep these programs financially viable. We were also able to save SeniorCare."
"Proposed changes to the open records law and changes to the membership of the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems were completely eliminated."
"I believe it is irresponsible for legislators to hold the state budget hostage unless they get their way on everything. With that said, I am currently compiling a list of items that I will ask the governor to veto."
"SeniorCare was saved so seniors could continue to receive the prescriptions they need, and we came up with a new and improved plan to strengthen and sustain our long-term care program. More money was put into programs to help women with health screenings, and we allocated an addition $650 million in Medical Assistance. We ... fulfilled our promise to restore funding to K-12 education by putting over $200 million back into education. We increased sparsity aid and boosted high-cost transportation aid to rural schools like the ones my children attend. We increased funding for grants to expand broadband in underserved areas, put money into the TEACH II program to help close the digital divide in some of our schools, and helped schools purchase equipment for fabrication laboratories."