State budget debate looms - Local legislators talk pros, cons of proposal

Written by Nathan Vine, Central Wisconsin Sunday


As the state Assembly prepares to debate the 2013-2015 budget this week, local legislators have different views on what it will mean for Wisconsin.
The budget, which passed the Joint Finance Committee on June 5, is scheduled to be debated Tuesday. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he hopes to vote on passing it the following day. Should that happen, the Senate is expected to take it up the following day. Gov. Scott Walker, who said he would like to take between a week and 10 days to review the budget for possible line-item vetoes, said he hopes to sign it by July 1.
Rep. Scott Krug, R-Rome, said he believed the debate in the Joint Finance Committee helped to make the budget better, and believes that could convince some Democrats to support it. He said the debate helped deliver local victories, such as a motion to defund the statewide student information system and support a multivendor system, which will benefit Stevens Point-based Skyward Inc.
King also praised a motion that will cut income taxes by about $650 million over the next two years, will shrink the number of tax brackets from five to four, all of which will have cuts, as benefiting everyone in the state.
“I like being able to put dollars back in the hands of people. What usually happens when you do that you stimulate the economy, so I think it’s nothing but a win,” Krug said.
John Spiros, R-Marshfield, said the expansion of the private school voucher program from just Racine and Milwaukee to a statewide system was a positive. Enrollment outside of Milwaukee and Racine would be capped at just 500 students next school year and 1,000 for every year after that.
Spiros also was pleased about the JFC motion that increased spending in public schools by $150 per pupil in each of the next two years. Walker had proposed no increase, and Democrats called for $275 per student.
“Every district is going to have more money, and there will be more choice in education for families,” Spiros said.
Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, criticized both the expansion of the voucher program and the school spending increase, saying the amount given to public schools in the budget doesn’t even keep up with inflation.
“The statewide expansion of vouchers will create separate and unequal schools in our state. Taxpayers do not deserve the burden of having to fund two separate school systems,” Shankland said in a statement. “Giving more money to unaccountable voucher schools on the heels of the largest cut to K-12 public education in Wisconsin’s history — a $1.6 billion mistake perpetrated by Republicans last session — is outrageous.”
Shankland said the income tax cut is unequal, pointing out a taxpayer earning $45,000 would save just $85 annually.
“Clearly, this tax reform will do little to benefit the middle class, but its effects will be shouldered by our school children,” Shankland said. “This is a slap in the face to all Wisconsin families who struggle to make ends meet and rely on our public schools for their children’s education.”