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Politics & Government

Walker Says He'd Bend on Education and Road Spending; a Mistake Led to UW System Mission Change

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Gov. Walker said Thursday that he's willing to add more money in the next state budget for the UW System, public schools and transportation, according to the Associated Press.

His caveat is that the state must still lowers property taxes.

Under the 2015-2017 plan he submitted to the Legislature Tuesday night, property taxes would drop $10 on the average home.

To lower property taxes, his proposed budget includes a 13% cut in funding to the university system, money to hold down school property taxes while not allowing districts to raise revenue and borrowing $1.3 billion to fund road projects.

Walker says he believes legislators from both parties will want to add money to his plan, particularly for education and transportation, but that how much they add will depend on state revenue estimates this spring. He says he is willing to work with lawmakers on making adjustments.

When it comes to his plan to cut $15 million from Seniorcare, the state's medicine benefit plan for seniors, Walker says he just wants some people to sign up first for Medicare Part D, to get the federal government to pay part of the costs.

Regarding backlash he received for changes his budget made to the mission statement of the UW System, the governor called it "a mistake someone made." Walker says he will fix the language, to keep the "Wisconsin Idea" intact.

His office issued an explanation on Thursday.

“We encourage a vigorous debate over the idea of an authority to govern the University of Wisconsin system or the status quo, as well as a debate about what is the real amount of savings that can be generated by an authority, which we believe is worth $150 million a year. However, there is no debate over the principles contained within the Wisconsin Idea. We are, and have been, in agreement."

The Wisconsin Idea has been the guiding principle of the UW System for more than a century. Walker's budget basically eliminated the 'public service' and 'extending knowledge' tenants of the system's mission and replaced them with a directive to prepare students for Wisconsin's workforce needs.

Records show that the administration ordered a rewrite of the system's mission statement late last year, but the governor says the edited copy was a drafting error.

In a news release, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse asked how provisions to the UW System's mission could have slipped by Gov. Walker.

 “Gov. Walker’s excuse that rogue staffers were responsible for writing portions of his budget raises serious questions about who is in control while he is busy running for president,” State Senator Shilling said.

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