July 9, 2016

Why Republicans called it a “crap budget”

By Senator Lena C. Taylor

This week, the Legislature passed Governor Scott Walker’s budget. The bill, which grabbed negative headlines from day one, was so bad that even one of my Republican colleagues called it a “crap budget.” In fact, the budget was so bad that it earned bipartisan opposition in both the Senate and Assembly.

Not only did I vote against Walker’s budget when it was before the Joint Committee on Finance, but I voted against it on the Senate floor as well. Take into consideration that since Governor Walker took office, our state budgets have ballooned by more than $10 billion from $62 billion to $73 billion.

I cannot state this clearly enough. Governor Walker’s budget is terrible for Wisconsin. While overall spending is up, the Walker budget reduces our investment in public schools, makes a $250 million cut to the UW System and puts some of our most vulnerable citizens at risk of losing the quality care they currently receive through the self-directed IRIS program.

Despite the increased spending, Governor Walker entered this budget with a self-inflicted $2.2 billion budget deficit. At the same time Minnesota had about a $1 billion budget surplus and made significant investments in public education, Governor Walker continued to turn his back on public school children. No wonder so many of my Republican colleagues voted against the budget.

Some of the worst changes to the budget came at the 11th hour. After a month-long Republican budget stalemate, Republicans came back to finish the budget last week and quickly removed almost $1 billion in economic development for Milwaukee. Most notably, Republicans pulled the $500 million Bucks arena deal out of the state budget. On top of that, Republicans also delayed the final phase of the Zoo interchange at a cost of about $200 million in construction spending for the Milwaukee community.

While they were divesting from Milwaukee, Republican’s also slipped in several provisions that essentially destroyed Wisconsin’s tradition of open government. The deal, which was cut behind closed doors with Governor Walker’s office at the table, I’m convinced was intended to shield Governor Walker’s future presidential campaign from scrutiny and scandal. Thankfully, due to an overwhelming public outcry, the open records provisions were stripped from the budget. Stay tuned, however. Republican leadership and Governor Walker showed their true colors on this one and will likely make another effort to change Wisconsin’s open records law.

Republicans also made significant changes to Milwaukee County, giving the power to sell land and approve contracts solely to the County executive, without the check and balance of the county board.

In the end, Governor Walker’s budget priorities lined right up with his presidential priorities. Throughout this budget process, Governor catered to the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire more than the needs of Wisconsin. While this is only a two year budget, the impact of this spending plan will be felt by Wisconsinites for years and years to come.