A Column of Personal Opinion
by State Senator Sheila Harsdorf September 20, 2017
State Budget Sent to Governor
The State Senate completed work on the state budget late last week and the bill now goes to the Governor for his final approval. The budget prioritizes education, holds the line on income and property taxes, and continues to invest in workforce development. In order to protect taxpayers, the two year budget reduces the size of government, lowers the structural deficit, and maintains a larger end balance. Here are some of the highlights.
- K-12 Education – Increases funding by $639 million for a total of $6.7 billion in 2017-18 and $6.9 billion in 2018-19. Maintains funding for sparsity aid and high cost transportation aid which helps our rural school districts as well as provide funding for “Act Now!”, the anti-bullying curriculum. Addresses workforce preparation by providing $2.9 million for an Early College Credit Program and $7.6 million in grants to help students with disabilities find jobs.
- Higher Education – Extends tuition freeze for an additional two years, holding the line on costs for students and families. Provides $90 million more for the UW System. Increases financial aid for students attending university or technical college or private institutions by $15.2 million. Also provides $4.95 million in funding for UW-River Falls May Hall renovation and expansion.
- Transportation – Provides 9.5% increase in funding for local road aids and $7.5 million more per year for local bridge projects. Overall larger transportation projects will stay on track for completion while maintaining bonding at a reasonable level.
- Taxes – Eliminates the Forestry Mill Tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax as well as begin the phase out of the personal property tax.
- Communications – Allocate $11 million more for Rural Broadband Expansion Grants. Create a new Emergency Communications Department and provide funding to implement NextGen911 in order to update our state 911 services from analog to digital.
I appreciate all those who took time to offer their input on various provisions in the budget bill, whether it was testifying at one of the public hearings or through communications to my office. I welcome your continued feedback and input on the state budget and other state issues. You can contact me through www.harsdorfsenate.com, or “like” my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Harsdorf.sheila.