Governor Walker unveiled his biennial state budget this week. It is not a surprise that the Governor’s budget reflects his personal views about what is important for the state of Wisconsin. Most disappointing to me were the zero increase in spending for public schools, the lack-luster increases in Technical College funding, the rejection of Federal funds designated for Wisconsin to expand health care coverage, and the freeze in local aids without an adjustment for the local transportation fund hole from the last budget.
Education is an essential part economic recovery. Funding our Technical College system at a level where they can be nimble and responsive to employment needs is essential. Additionally, funding our public schools is how we build our economic future. Working together is our only solution as a state. Pitting “us against them” is a mistake and has put our economic success at risk in Wisconsin. It is my hope that the majority party opens their doors to potential ideas for economic recovery and investment priorities as a state. No one has all of the answers and we all bring something of value to the table.
- This budget creates a structural deficit of -$188.2 million at the end of this biennium; -$349.3 at the end of fiscal year 2017. This means we will spend more than we collect in revenue.
- Increases state spending by 3% in 2014 and 2.1% in 2015
- Freezes spending for all public school districts, while increasing spending on private voucher schools by $94 million (29% increase). Expands voucher program to 9 additional school districts—Madison, Green Bay, Beloit, Sheboygan, West Allis/West Milw., Fond du Lac, Superior, Waukesha, Kenosha. Funds special needs vouchers at $21 million.
- Rejects comprehensive Medicaid funding, costing the state $42 million this biennium. By taking the Federal funds, Wisconsin could have provided health insurance to nearly 175,000. Additionally, refusing Federal money will cost Wisconsin 10,500 in anticipated jobs.
- Income tax cut of $343 million over the biennium. A family of four making $80,000 would get $100 annually, $2 per week.
- After a $72 million cut last biennium, the Technical College System will receive $5 million in the second year of the biennium. It appears there will be a full elimination of equalization aid and all aid will become performance based by 2020.
- $500 million increase in state spending on transportation, 4 times the increase in spending on K-12 education.
- Freezes local government spending, fails to fill hole left by local road aids last session which leaves local road projects (the roads most take to work every day) high and dry.
If you have questions or comments on that state budget, please contact my office. We are only just beginning to have a look at what has been proposed by the Governor. Once the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has had a chance to finish their analysis the Joint Committee on Finance will hold a series of public hearings. To contact my office: email@example.com or 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027.