Walker’s budget proposal ‘vague’ to local lawmakers
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker introduced his budget proposal for the Badger State Tuesday night.
Wisconsin sits in an estimated $2.2 billion deficit heading into this two-year budget cycle.
Walker’s budget proposal is entitled Freedom and Prosperity.
He began by talking about the American Dream, which Democrats feel has more to do with the governor’s run for president than it does for Wisconsin.
There weren’t a lot of specifics, and following the budget proposal, it wasn’t what the governor said that is making headlines, it’s what he didn’t say.
The first thing the governor proposed in his two-year budget is to keep property taxes low in the state.
“Property taxes by the end of 2016 will be lower than they were in 2014,” Walker said during his speech.
As expected, Walker also announced his intentions to keep a tuition freeze for University of Wisconsin schools while at the same time cutting $300 million from the UW system budget and allowing it to split from the state.
“And we will add a tuition freeze in our technical colleges for high-demand areas,” Walker said.
Local Democratic politicians feel Walker’s budget address was aimed at a wider audience than just Wisconsin and it was fairly simple.
“Well it almost sounded like the governor was in denial. There was no talk of how we’re going to solve that budget deficit,” said state Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse.
“It was very light in detail and I think if you were watching from Iowa, you would not know that Wisconsin is in the midst of a $2.2 billion structural deficit,” said state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.
Local lawmakers were also surprised by the governor’s brief mention of solving a $1 billion transportation shortfall.
“Under our freedom and prosperity proposal we are investing in our transportation system,” Walker said.
“I was hoping to hear more on transportation because, you know, that’s going to be a big issue on how we’re going to fund — to get the funding that we need in transportation to get the roads and work on the roads and so I would like to have heard something about that,” said State Rep. Lee Nerison, (R)-Westby.
“(Walker) wants to put our transportation budget on the state’s credit card,” Shilling said. “This was a very broad, vague speech that might sell well in Iowa, or in other early primary states if you’re running for president, but it really lacked, I think, the detail and it really lacked those tough choices that the governor had talked about.”
Another way Walker would like to reduce the state’s deficit is by merging state organizations. He says joining similar programs will provide better, more efficient service to customers and better value to taxpayers.
Walker also said in his budget proposal that he plans to remove the cap on the number of vouchers in Wisconsin. This would give more families the choice to find the best school for their children.
His budget proposal removes funding for the Smarter Balanced test, which is connected to Common Core.
Walker says other reforms in his budget will improve government assistance programs. He wants adults without children to pass a drug test before receiving a welfare check. The budget also expands the requirement for adults to enroll in an employment and training program to receive food stamps.
The governor says he will continue to not take federal funds from the Obamacare expansion. “We put in more than $600 million into Medicaid to provide health care for needy families, children and seniors,” Walker said. “We are the only state in the nation without a gap in coverage.”
The Freedom and Prosperity proposal will continue to improve mental health services, provide more funds to help victims of child sex trafficking, and maintain support for successful crime-fighting programs Walker said.
The budget proposal will now be debated over the next several months. The governor is expected to have the new budget signed by July 1.