Gov. Scott Walker signed the 2013-15 state budget of $70.1 billion, calling it an investment in Wisconsin’s future.
“This budget is a sharp contrast from where we were two years ago,” Walker said. “Our structural reforms, coupled with tough, but prudent, decisions, have led to a great investment in the people of Wisconsin. This budget benefits hard-working Wisconsin families by providing them with nearly $1 billion in tax relief, $322 million more for our public schools, and $100 million for workforce development. We focused on making life better for the residents of our state, and this budget builds upon a solid foundation for the future. We’re heading in the right direction and moving Wisconsin forward.”
The budget cuts income taxes by more than $680 million, overhauls the state’s Medicaid program and expands the school choice program statewide.
In his speech at Catalyst Exhibits in Pleasant Prairie, Walker focused on five main areas: helping businesses create more jobs through tax cuts and other measures, workforce development, education spending, infrastructure support and reforming government through changes to entitlement programs.
Walker’s rejection of a federal push to expand the Medicaid program is part of what he has called an effort to give Wisconsinites “true independence” from the government. That also includes new job training requirements for those on food stamps as well as tougher standards to qualify for unemployment insurance.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said, “The new state budget is a solid budget with the right priorities for Wisconsin. It gives middle-class taxpayers much-needed relief with their income taxes while keeping their property taxes down. We also increased funding for public schools and invested in our communities, infrastructure and tourism…This budget will positively impact every person in Wisconsin by helping our economy to grow and getting people back to work. Our state continues to head in the right direction with increased revenues and the creation of thousands of jobs. Coupled with the tax cuts and good investments, this budget will keep Wisconsin moving forward.”
Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) criticized the Republican budget.
“Gov. Walker’s extreme budget fails the middle class and will continue to take Wisconsin down the wrong path. Despite numerous opportunities to improve this budget, the governor and Republican legislators actually kept making it worse for public schools, property taxpayers and people who count on basic services,” Barca said. “The governor’s budget expands taxpayer-funded private voucher schools statewide while failing to restore historic public school cuts in the last Republican budget. It gives people making more than $300,000 more than 10 times the tax break it gives to the average working family. It rewards special interests who want to prey on consumers while middle-class families get left behind. And it includes what may be the worst decision made in our state in a generation – a health care plan that covers 85,000 fewer people and costs taxpayers an additional $120 million. The last Republican budget is one of the primary reasons Wisconsin is 38th in the nation in job growth – and at or near the bottom by any objective economic measure – since Gov. Walker took office. Not only does this budget fail to reverse that damage, it actually doubles down on an economic agenda that has devastated Wisconsin over the past two and a half years.”
Walker also used his veto pen 57 times, including nixing a provision lawmakers inserted into the budget to bring back the bail bonds industry and to sever the relationship between the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.