The State Legislature passed the state budget bill this week, completing the process started earlier this year with the introduction of the Governor’s budget proposal. Following public hearings, agency briefings, and changes made by the budget-writing committee, the actions this week by the State Assembly and State Senate complete the Legislature’s work on the budget. The budget bill will now be sent to the Governor for his consideration.
Our state’s improving finances allowed us to invest in our priorities, enact a historic tax cut, and hold the line on property taxes, all while ending the next two-year budget cycle with a surplus. The budget surplus in the current budget cycle and the growing revenue estimates continue to demonstrate the value of the tough decisions we made last session to get our state’s fiscal house in order.
I am pleased that we made taxpayers a priority in this budget and voted to return the current budget surplus back to taxpayers through permanent tax cuts. The tax reform package approved by the State Legislature results in a nearly $650 million income tax cut that will benefit all taxpayers and bring relief to middle-class families and job creators. In addition, property taxes will continue to be restrained by levy limits.
At the same time, we were able to increase funding for vital programs, including education, health care, and transportation. Public K-12 schools will see a nearly $300 million increase in funding under the budget bill. All Wisconsin residents living under the federal poverty line will now be eligible for state medical assistance programs. Local transportation aids were increased and state highway projects are funded, without an increase in the gas tax. In addition to these investments, other highlights of the budget include:
· Boosting economic development programs, including angel investment incentives and venture capital,
· Protecting the Rainy Day Fund from raids by setting restrictions on its use,
· Ensuring veterans benefits are maintained by appropriating new funding to the Veterans Trust Fund,
· Providing additional resources to protect victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault,
· Expand available funding to repair roads damaged from clean-up of 2011 storms in Burnett County,
· Enhancing and increasing services for those living with mental illness,
· Approving grant funds for expanding broadband access to underserved areas, and
· Adopting enhanced DNA collection to solve violent crimes and bring relief to crime victims and their families.
More information on the provisions of the state budget can be found on the Legislative Fiscal Bureau website at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/. Please contact me by calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745 or visiting my website at www.harsdorfsenate.com.