Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unveiled his $59.2-billion state budget last Tuesday before a joint session of the legislators, with the exception of the 14 Democrats in Illinois protesting the governorÂ’s fix-it bill. Everyone in the state, with the exception of big businesses, is affected by what the governor terms as a return to frugality.
The governorÂ’s bill calls for almost $1.3 billion to cover costs of Medicare for the state, but programs such as BadgerCare Plus, which covers children and families, and FamilyCare, which covers those who need long-term care and the elderly, may still face a $500-million cut, to cover additional monies needed for Medicare. Also, seniors will be required to participate in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, sending $15 million in cost to the federal government.
The Wisconsin bill calls for eliminating an early release program approved two years ago, to save money for the state. The budget does not include additional money for officers to deal with the population. The bill also proposed to close two juvenile facilities and consolidate them into one. Prosecutors did get $1 million to provide for raises. The budget also adds extra DNA techs to the State Crime Laboratory.
In addition to the governorÂ’s previous union busting attempts, the budget calls for $834 million in cuts to K-12 education, which is 7.9 percent lower than the previous budget. The governor has also placed a restriction on local governments replacing lost state funds with property tax increases.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Andrew Reschovsky, an economist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the restriction Â“ . . . could reduce the amount that school districts statewide could raise under the revenue caps by roughly $500 million and would likely lead to cuts affecting students . . . It’s hard for me to believe that it wouldn’t.Â”
Higher education is on the chopping block for an 11-percent cut.
Property taxes, under the new Wisconsin bill, are frozen and can only be raised on new construction. Governor Walker also cuts funding for local recycling programs and cuts funding to repair local roads by 10 percent. Funding to local governments decreases by $96 million.
People and corporations investing in Wisconsin businesses will receive a tax break on their state capital gains taxes and bring in $36 million less in revenue. The governor also proposes $46 million over two years in tax cuts to multi-state corporations by allowing business losses to be offset by their tax liability. This is in addition to $100 million in tax cuts to corporations that move to Wisconsin over the next two years. Also, the governor proposes to get rid of the Department of Commerce and spend $196 million to fund a partly private group called the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
Republicans hail the budget as a great idea and long-time coming. The governor said, Â“We are returning to frugality and making the long-term decisions to balance our budget now and more importantly into the future. We will do the heavy lifting to protect our children and grandchildren from having to make the hard decisions that were once avoided.Â”
A Republican state representative said, Â“It’s the first budget we’ve had in 12 years that’s going to actually be a balanced budget without any funny money.Â”
Democrats say, Â“He does this under the guise of fixing the budget, but what he’s really doing is waging war on Wisconsin.Â”
This current bill, along with the fix-it bill proposed earlier by the governor will–according to Democrats–hurt the state. They also say Walker is not being truthful in his assertion that the fix-it will save the state money.
According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Â“Walker’s plan would delay a $165 million debt payment that is due May 1 and instead spread the payment over 10 years. The measure will increase interest payments by $14 million total over the next two years with the higher interest rising to as much as roughly $42 million over the full 10 years.Â”