The Joint Committee on Finance has finished their work and the Legislature will likely be done with the state budget in both houses inside one week. Like tearing off a Band-Aid, this budget delivers pain swiftly. When times are tough in the state, like they are now and were the last two sessions, the Legislature crafts a budget that makes deep cuts everywhere. Legislators demonstrate their priorities in a two-year budget that spends $64.1 billion of taxpayer money - $1.1 billion more than the last budget. My priorities are building Wisconsin’s economy with a balanced budget that makes education, job training, basic needs, and business supports all an equal priority; that is why I will vote against this budget unless it has major changes on the Senate floor.
What is NOT a priority in this budget?
Education: The economic engine that could, education, sees deep cuts in the 2011-2013 budget. In the Republican majority budget, public school funding is cut by nearly $1.68 billion statewide. Schools take ever deeper cuts, as more money for public schools is diverted to private schools. UW System tuition for students will increase by $107 million dollars. Tech Colleges will take a 30% cut in funding and successful re-training programs for dislocated workers have been eliminated. We need to find balance in our budget to achieve economic success as a state. Businesses locate here because of our hard working well educated workforce; these cuts go too far.
Taxpayers Pocketbooks: The 2011-2013 Republican state budget will increase taxes on the working families of Wisconsin by nearly $70 million and state fees by $110 million. At the same time, out of state large corporations are given a $46.4 million tax break by re-creating the LasVegas loophole and the $147 million spent for corporate tax breaks earlier this year stays. This money is literally taken out of the pocket of middle class and working families and put into the pocket of WalMart and other mega businesses.
Cutting funds for local government like this budget does is a mistake and just means higher taxes or fees for essential services. Garbage does not stop going to the curb if we cut the funds to drive the truck around. Recycling won’t happen if there is no state support for the program. Winter won’t disappear in Wisconsin. People don’t stop needing an ambulance when they get in a car accident. Deep cuts to local government just pass the buck to increased local taxes and fees.
Healthy People: This is our third consecutive tough state budget – but the 2011-2013 Republican majority budget has the distinction of making the most cuts to the Medicaid program which help our citizens with health care in a time of need. As taxpayers we have supported programs like BadgerCare, SeniorCare and Family Care which help unemployed and low income families, the elderly, and disabled people. When we need these services because something happens in our lives, we should be able to be helped. Supported by Federal funds and participant premiums as well a state support, BadgerCare has helped get unemployed people back to work in this state and keep our children out of emergency rooms for common childhood illnesses saving taxpayers millions in health insurance premiums.
It is not bad math that created the budget shortfalls for the state the last three biennium; it is the biggest economic recession in history. Cutting education at every level, local governments, and safety net programs while giving tax breaks to out of state businesses will slow success of our economy. Every Legislature and Governor has the right to create their state budget – just as the Minority has the responsibility to try to balance the wants of the Majority with the priorities of the state.
A Fiscal Bureau summary of Joint Committee on Finance Action is available online on the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau “Publications” website. For more information contact my office at 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027 or email@example.com