$66 million budget impacts western Wisconsin

LA CROSSE, Wis. — The assembly’s version of the two-year, $66 million budget includes big cuts as a way to deal with the growing deficit.

It’s something public leaders in Western Wisconsin say will no doubt have a negative impact.

La Crosse County is bracing for more than $2 million in cuts during the next two years.

The County Administrator, Steve O’Malley, says that’s a conservative estimate.

“We look at it on a per year basis. It’s $1 million worth of shared revenue cut.  In addition to that more than $160,000 in general transportation aids another $150,000 in youth aids.  There are a number of other restrictions that we’re still trying to analyze through the existing budget.”

Republicans claim the two-year budget could eliminate a $3 billion deficit without raising taxes.  Students could be one group of people who may end up paying for a portion of these cuts.”

UW-La Crosse’s Chancellor, Joe Gow, says there are big cuts coming as a result of the overall $250 million cut to the UW System. But, exactly how it will be spread across all schools is still being worked out.

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UW-L says it’s planning for a cut in the $8-10 million range.

In addition to the expected cuts, the budget bill also caps tuition increases at 5.5 percent.

“That’s well intentioned, but it really means we’re not going to be able to make back all the money that we’re cut.  We wouldn’t even be able to make back half of it, said Gow.

Western Technical College is looking at a $4.5 million cut.

K-12 public education is losing state money, too.  La Crosse Schools anticipate 5 million dollars less, and says a majority will be shouldered by district employees.

“About $4 million of the $5 million will come out of the pockets of all of our employees who will be taking home less pay as a result of their retirements and the health benefits,” said Randy Nelson, Associate Superintendent for La Crosse School District.

The final million could be accounted for by teacher retirements, but that will remain unknown until student enrollment is set for fall.

Any remaining deficit could be paid for with onetime stimulus money that the district set aside.

The Assembly’s majority leader says this budget does exactly what republicans told voters they’d do last November, saying it leads Wisconsin out of a fiscal mess and back on sound financial footing.

Republicans also say they made tough decisions now instead of putting them off.

They say instead of being worried about the next election they’re worried about the next generation.