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Budget Writing Committee Cuts Education and Local Aids

The Legislature’s budget writing committee acted this morning to approve Governor Doyle’s proposal to address the state budget deficit. The committee cut state aid to schools by $314 million, increased reductions to local government aids to $30 million, and expanded the recently adopted tax on hospital patients by over $200 million.

The committee also approved state spending reductions, including repealing scheduled 2% pay raises for state employees and approving state employee furloughs, while also restructuring debt.

The committee's actions to cut state aid for schools, while also repealing cost controls on salaries and wages, will be particularly devastating for schools. The committee passed the Governor's proposal to repeal the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO). Repealing the QEO in 2010 will reduce school boards' ability to negotiate teacher contracts. To further make salary deliberations difficult for school boards, the committee passed a measure to remove consideration of local economic conditions by arbitrators when making contract decisions between schools and unions.

Unfortunately, the Democratic-controlled budget writing committee was reckless in ignoring the harmful effect that the reduction in state aid along with removing the economic factors from arbitration would have on school districts. As government revenues diminish, we need to take steps that help local governments deal with difficult budget realities, not place additional hardships on them.