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Politics & Government

Walker Touts Nearly $600 Million in Tax Savings in Proposed Budget

Walker
WHITNEY CURTIS/GETTY IMAGES
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Gov. Walker focuses on education and welfare reform in his 2017-2019 budget proposal.

During his budget address Wednesday, Governor Walker said his budget prioritizes student success and accountable government, and rewards work. The governor also tucked nearly $600 million in tax cuts over the next two years into his plan. 

READ: Gov. Walker's 2017-19 Proposed Budget

When it comes to education, Governor Walker said it’s time to invest. “This budget includes more than half a billion dollar increase in per pupil aid for public education."

According to the proposed budget, school districts would see a $200 increase in per pupil spending in the first school year and a $204 increase per student in year two. When it comes to college, Walker is proposing a tuition freeze for Wisconsin’s technical school system and reducing the cost of college for UW system undergrads by 5 percent.

“To cover the reduction in tuition, we specifically put $35 million more into the UW System. To be clear, that’s on top of the more than 100 million in new state funding we’re putting into the UW System,” he said.

Walker is also including more money for need-based student aid, and said he’ll work with the Board of Regents work to build a performance-based system for the UW campuses. It would take into consideration the number graduates, the length of time it takes to get a degree and the number of graduates working in high-demand fields in the state.

When it comes to another of the governor’s priorities, welfare reform, he reiteratesd that all abled-bodied adults will need to work at least 80 hours a month or be enrolled in a job training program in order to receive assistance such as FoodShare.  Walker also said he’s moving forward with his drug-testing plan.

“We’re working with the new administration in Congress to get approval to expand drug testing for people seeking public assistance. If they fail the test, we provide treatment to get them healthy and back into the workforce. You see employers are eager to find individuals with fundamental employability skills who can pass a drug test,” he said.

On the issue of transportation, which is facing a huge deficit, Walker wants to delay the rebuild of East-West I-94 through Milwaukee but move ahead with some others.

“This budget gets all the active major projects outside of southeastern Wisconsin back on track. It adds funding for the work on Interstate 94 from the state line north through Kenosha and Racine counties. And it frees up resources to address the long-term transportation needs of the state, putting in place new reforms that will help lower the cost of building our infrastructure,” he said.

Transportation is an area where Walker is taking heat from both Democrats and Republicans. On Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos released a statement saying he’s disappointed the governor did not find a long-term solution for transportation funding.

Democrat Lena Taylor says the issue she is most disappointed about is that the governor did not address corrections. For instance, the juvenile system has reportedly been plagued with problems and inadequate staffing.

“He was silent,” she says.

Taylor says Wisconsin spends more on locking people up than on the UW system, so if Walker wants to address a major problem, his budget should include corrections.

As for common ground, Taylor says of course Democrats agree the state needs to spend more money on public education, but she says it’s hard to see how his numbers align.

“I can’t believe that the numbers will add up in the end if you’re going to change the revenue that comes in, you’ve not filled the holes that you created, whether it’s K-12 or the UW System. I just can’t see how the numbers add up, I think it’s fake math,”she says.

Taylor says that just as when Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, he leaves the lawmakers to do the real work of budgeting.

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