Area lawmakers react to Walker's budget plan
By Rose Heaphy
MADISON (WAOW) - Governor Scott Walker's budget plan is getting a mixed review among Republicans and Democrats.
Area lawmakers found some positives in the plan, but it appears the parties may remain divided on some of the larger issues.
One of the biggest changes in Walker's budget is a recommendation to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System.
Democrat State Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) says it's a proposal that will do more harm than good.
"These colleges not only employ people but they prepare people for the jobs of the future, so I'm deeply hopeful that we can mitigate these cuts if not end them," said Shankland.
Republicans say this is just the beginning of conversation.
"The final version I think is going to be very different than exactly what is proposed, but that's the norm. That's nothing new," said State Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon).
With plans to cut higher education, Walker announced increases for public schools and plans to lift caps on the school voucher program.
Republicans say this could open up opportunities.
"We know that parents have the best idea on how to educate their kids and what we want to do is provide educational options," said State Representative David Heaton (R-Wausau).
But democrats say the program's expansion would take away from public schools.
"It will cost a lot of money for taxpayers to be picking up the costs for parents to send their kids to private schools," said State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point). "I think that we should be investing in public education."
Among the proposed reforms includes a drug test requirement for those on government assistance.
Republicans say this will help put people back to work.
"A lot of employers are looking at drug testing, so I think it's an important factor in making sure people have the ability to get the jobs that are available," said Petrowski.
Shankland says she disapproves the plan, saying other states have found the program unconstitutional.
"I want to see first of all, if the governor is interested in drug testing legislators and the governor because we all accept public benefits too," said Shankland.
Ultimately, both Democrats and Republicans say they are waiting for more details.
In a few weeks, the fiscal board will give a breakdown on the budget's proposals.
Both Republicans and Democrats tell me they are looking forward to that, so they can work to approve a budget later this year.