The month of July started with big news: Assembly Bill 24, the first bill I authored as a state representative, was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker last week as 2015 Wisconsin Act 54. It passed by voice votes (with wide bipartisan support) in both the Assembly and Senate this spring and will help level the playing field for Wisconsin consumers who are shopping for a home loan. I deeply appreciate the support I received from members of both parties who came together to help me get this done.
But the bigger news this week is the passage of the 2015-17 state budget by both the Assembly and the Senate; the bill now awaits action by Governor Walker. I voted in favor of passing the bill, and I want to tell you why.
This plan put Wisconsin taxpayers first. There are no new taxes in this budget, and property taxes are going to continue to stay flat or drop slightly (instead of rising by more than $100/year, as had been the case before Republicans stopped it). Overall borrowing is down to a level we haven't seen since the 1980s. We reduced the income tax "marriage penalty," fully funded our $270 million "rainy day fund" and still expect to enter 2017 with a small surplus. I understand that you are accustomed to living within your means every day; I want to thank everyone who contacted me to help make the tough decisions we had to make this year to ensure that the government also lives within its means.
Repealing prevailing wage for all local projects (and adopting federal law for state-level projects) is going to save every taxpayer even more money. It was a tremendous priority for me. This major reform included in the budget is going to give more small businesses the opportunity to participate in projects that have been out of reach for them until now because of the huge administrative cost of complying with the old law. And if you vote via referendum in the future to increase local property taxes to pay for school district construction projects, the cost to you will be reduced significantly because of this change.
Education has always been a tremendous priority for you and for me, and we set the right priorities for Wisconsin's future in this budget by investing heavily in education. Despite what you may have heard, public schools will receive a funding increase even though overall enrollment trends are generally flat. Qualifying families will have additional opportunities to enroll in the school choice program; college will remain affordable for our young adults; and, for the first time, teachers will be allowed to deduct classroom expenses from their income taxes.
Finally, I am pleased that my colleagues agreed with me and ensured that any highway construction delays will be spread fairly across the state instead of giving preference only to megaprojects in the southeast. I am confident that the expansion project for State Highway 23 will remain a priority as soon as the federal legal battle is resolved.
As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions. Best wishes on your weekend!
Become a Conservation Patron
A Conservation Patron license is the perfect way to enjoy Wisconsin's outdoors at an excellent price. Becoming a conservation patron is also a great way to support wildlife management and research and help preserve Wisconsin's natural resources.
The license, made available by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), includes most basic fishing and hunting privileges and application fees in one simple purchase. It also includes an annual park sticker, an annual state parks trail pass and a subscription to Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine. For most Wisconsin residents, the $165 cost is approximately half the regular cost of all the included privileges; junior licenses (for those under age 18) cost only $75; and veterans who have received the Purple Heart medal can obtain the license for just $10. The Conservation Patron license (and all other hunting and fishing licenses) can be purchased online through the Wisconsin DNR website; at any authorized license agent; or at DNR service centers. Be advised that online purchases require a small additional shipping fee; you can avoid this fee by making your purchase in person.
New! Wisconsin also offers many "first-time buyer" discounts on various other hunting and fishing licenses for anyone who has not purchased one within the past 10 years. These licenses are available for only $5, and the person who recruits the new customer can be eligible for a discount as well.