June 29, 2007

The State Budget

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

Last Tuesday, after more than five months of debate, the Wisconsin State Senate passed their version of the state budget.  After decades of Republican slash and burn budgets cutting vital services, our budget invests over $380 million in Milwaukee to create good paying jobs and invest in our kids’ education. Our aggressive education package makes smart investments to reduce property taxes, improve education and provide major health care reform. 

Our new high poverty aid will provide over $17 million in tax relief to working families and to Milwaukee. Additionally, the new aid is indexed to inflation to provide increased support in future years. For many years, parents and teachers have worked hard to bring tax relief to high poverty school districts, and I am so proud we were able to finally make this investment in our kids.

Math is so critical in world today, which is why we invested $15 million in the Milwaukee Math Initiative. I am deeply troubled by the large math achievement gap between black and white students in MPS, especially because MPS was the only school district identified as “in need of improvement” under the federal No Child Left Behind law. We cannot continue to fail our children. Math scores improved this year because of new math and science program, and we must continue to invest in this success.

As you know, violence too often darkens our community and our schools. Working with community leaders, school officials and local law enforcement, our budget includes a new school safety proposal, which would provide over $9 million for safety initiatives at MPS. We must take strong action to keep our children safe in schools.

Without question, our budget continues Wisconsin’s tradition of ensuring every child gets an excellent education. We invested in the SAGE small class size program, expanded access to four year-old kindergarten and increased funding for school breakfast and transportation. We cannot continue to build our community without strong schools and educated young people.

Perhaps most importantly, through the BadgerCare Plus expansion, we are adding over 24 school nurses, psychologists and social workers to improve our children’s health. Too many of the children in our community have limited or no access to dental care, and only half of Milwaukee children have the minimum vaccinations. We must act now to ensure our children grow up healthy and strong.

We included our new Healthy Wisconsin plan to ensure that everyone has access to high quality, affordable health care. We save billions by streamlining administration and cutting excessive drug and insurance company profits.  Healthy Wisconsin focuses on preventative care and everyone paying their fair share of the cost. Most importantly, though, you still choose the doctor and the health care plan that works for you family.

In the last election, people spoke loudly and clearly about their priorities when they elected a Democratic majority to the State Senate. Our legacy will be a generation of smarter, healthier children who will change the world.