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Politics & Government

Gov. Walker Begins Signaling Goals of Second Term

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As Gov. Walker prepares to take the oath of office Monday, he outlines broad reforms he's considering in education, entitlements and property taxes.

When it comes to education, he says the state must make sure students – especially in cities such as Milwaukee, have access to successful schools, public or private.

“It’s why I’ve supported opening up and expanding school choice to say that for low-income families and now for middle-class families, locked in schools that were failing, we give them a more viable alternative. We also put in place through Act 10 and other reforms new provisions to allow MPS to have all their schools act more like successful charter schools. We’re going to do more of that in the future,” Walker said.

Walker says he’s also eyeing major changes for the UW system - in the context of making sure it operates efficiently, and perhaps notable reforms within the Department of Corrections.  He says those agencies and others will not get all the money they’re requesting in the 2015-2017 budget, otherwise, Wisconsin would face a massive deficit.

One place the state cannot cut much, according to the governor, is in providing Medicaid - health care coverage for people living in poverty. Wisconsin calls its program BadgerCare. Walker says the cost is well over $700 million, and it could increase.

“We’re not going to cut people off en masse, we just put a whole new wave of people living in poverty on and so, we’re going to have to make reductions elsewhere,” Walker said.

Walker says his administration will propose steps to make sure people receiving all types of public assistance need it – and use it lawfully.

One agency that has requested a big increase in funding is transportation. The DOT, in addition to its separate fund in the budget, wants to take more than $500 million from the state’s general fund. The governor says his office will examine the best options.

“We think there’s a tremendous need for transportation in this state, not only tied into the people who build and maintain and design our transportation infrastructure, but in a larger context, for all the industries; the economic thrust that depends on it. You look at manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, the timber industry. A lot of those industries are heavily dependent on a strong transportation infrastructure system,” Walker said.

Yet Walker says he is unlikely to support an increase in the gas tax or a new tax on the sale of vehicles.

The governor says he will likely have to scale back the large income tax cut he initially envisioned for the state. He says instead, he will remain focused on reducing property taxes.

“Mainly because, that’s the tax we hear the most about. We hear about it from working families. We hear about it from senior citizens on fixed incomes, for sure. We hear about it from small business owners, from family farmers and others out there,” Walker said.

Walker says preparing the upcoming two-year state budget will be a balancing act. He still has several weeks before he has to turn over his document to the Legislature. As for Inauguration day, it’s mainly about celebrating the new term.

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