Analyzing the 2017 – 2019 Wisconsin Budget

With 1087 pages of items, you will never get 132 legislators with different backgrounds representing divergent areas of the state to agree on the entire budget. Nor, if I randomly selected 10 out of the more than 58,000 constituents I represent, would those 10 ever agree on the entire state budget. Therefore, I must weigh the positives and negatives of a budget and analyze how it will affect seniors, veterans, businesses, families, and education in my district.  

Educating Wisconsin’s future remains a top priority. An additional $639 million in state aid to school districts ensures more money will be spent directly in K–12 classrooms during the next biennium. Approximately 37 cents of every tax dollar collected funds education. In total, Wisconsin taxpayers will be investing almost $12 billion to educate approximately 870,000 children from kindergarten through 12th grade.

College bound high school students can earn college credit through the Early College Credit Program created in the budget. More money has also been allocated for career and technical training grants, which provides funding for students to take technical school courses in high school.

This budget continues the UW System tuition freeze marking 6 consecutive years resident undergrads’ tuition remains frozen. Furthermore, UW-Madison faculty will be held more accountable to Wisconsin taxpayers with a workload study ensuring students have adequate classroom instruction.

With businesses relocating and expanding in Wisconsin it is vital we invest to keep Wisconsin workers’ skills 21st century economy ready. Low income students will get training to enter the workforce utilizing the Wisconsin Technical College System with a $4 million increase to need based Wisconsin Grant scholarships. Funding was also increased for Fast Forward grants, which helps fund training programs like apprenticeships and internships.

Wisconsin’s most vulnerable citizens are helped in the budget. SeniorCare – the popular prescription drug program for Wisconsin’s low income seniors is funded, the children’s Long Term Care support waiting list is eliminated, and funding for dementia care has been increased. Twelve million dollars was added to combat child sex trafficking in the state. Furthermore, an additional $1 million has been added to fund adequate civil legal services for low-income victims of sexual abuse, domestic abuse, and other violent acts.

Wisconsin’s hard working families will keep more of their money with the 2017-2019 budget. Both sales taxes and income taxes were held flat. Three specific taxes were eliminated. The forestry mill tax (i.e. state property tax) was repealed, saving Wisconsin taxpayers $180 million. The budget also abolished the alternative minimum tax, saving Wisconsinites $7 million. Lastly, the soda water beverage tax was rescinded. A partial repeal of the personal property tax on non-manufacturing machinery, tools, and patterns will allow small businesses throughout Wisconsin to apply $75 million of earnings back into their companies and the economy.

 Wisconsin’s Local Roads Improvement Fund will receive a $10 million increase over the biennium. Moreover, the Local Bridge Improvement Fund will realize a total increase of $10 million, which is $7.5 million over the Governor’s original proposal.  This budget saves taxpayers’ dollars by eliminating the obsolete prevailing wage law for state building and state highway projects.

 Wisconsin’s gas tax, collected on every gallon of gasoline purchased, is used for road construction and maintenance. However, hybrid and electric cars cause wear and tear on roads, but their owners pay little of their fair share in road maintenance. Parity is addressed with a $75 per year user fee for hybrid cars and $100 per year user fee for electric cars.

 The budget ends with an approximate $200 million surplus. This is on top of Wisconsin’s “rainy day” Budget Stabilization Fund of $281.1 million. Maintaining a nearly $500 million balance provides fiscal responsibility in case of a downturn in the economy or unforeseen emergency,

After analyzing this budget, I voted “yes” for a budget which reflects the priorities and feedback from a majority of my constituents.