Gov. Walker responds to budget proposal criticism

By Bailey Harbit, WSAW News

WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Governor Scott Walker made a stop in Wausau Thursday to defend parts of his 2017-19 budget proposal, just one day after presenting it to the state’s legislature.

Walker visited Northcentral Technical College to discuss his increased focus on education and student success.

Walker wants a $649 million increase in funding for the state’s K-12 schools, a technical school tuition freeze with a one year flat rate for UW classes, and a five percent tuition cut for undergraduate students in the UW system, as well as $100 million more to help the system.

The governor’s plan is a stark contrast to budgets he’s presented over the last six years, which featured heavy cuts to public schools and UW funding.

UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Bernie Patterson called the proposal a “positive step forward.”

"We're looking at the process as it continues to unfold in Wisconsin. This is all, it's good that we're talking about how to help students succeed and how to help students graduate in a more timely fashion. That's a wonderful conversation for the state to have,” Patterson said.

Some Democrats, like Rep. Katrina Shankland, (D) 71st Assembly District, are calling the budget unrealistic, and a tool for Walker’s 2018 re-election run.

“I think the governor is looking at 2018 and probably re-evaluating his re-election. He knows his poll numbers are at about 40 percent and hovering there. So he definitely sees some challenges ahead of him.” Shankland said.

Walker responded to the criticism.

"Well they're upset because they don't have anything else to criticize. So now they're questioning whether it's real. The fact of the matter is, it's totally real. It's because of the reform dividend,” Walker said.

He also disagreed with the notion that his budget featured more liberal leanings, called the budget a conservative one.