Once facing $3.6 billion in red ink, Wisconsin’s finances are now back in the black.
The state Senate recently passed - and Gov. Scott Walker into law on Sunday - a two-year budget that cuts taxes, freezes property taxes and put the state back in the black for the first time in more than 10 years.
In six months, we’ve managed to clean up the mess that was made of our finances over the last eight years.This budget delivers real reform, protects taxpayers during these tough economic times and provides a stable environment to grow jobs.
We were able to do more with less, just like families throughout Wisconsin are doing in this tough economy. Our budget plan means more jobs, more money in the classroom, more teachers, more accountability, more reform, more local control.
To put this budget in perspective, it’s important to look at the last state budget passed by the Democrats.Their budget increased spending $3.6 billion, raised taxes $4.7 billion, including a $1.2 billion hike property taxes. Where did it leave us? When we started the two-year budget plan, we first had to fill a $3.6 billion hole.
I’m happy to report we did it and without raising your taxes.In fact, this budget cuts taxes $24 million, creates the first permanent property tax freeze and cuts credit card spending by nearly $2 billion. Taxpayers scored another victory in the budget with the elimination of Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs). However well intentioned they were, the RTAs were unelected, unaccountable boards yet could raise taxes.
We had to make tough, but necessary cuts. However, the budget protects and funds important programs like SeniorCare, Family Care, recycling and provided more money for school kids. We dug ourselves out of a $3.6 billion deficit left by former Gov. Jim Doyle and the Democrats, protected our most vulnerable, and did it without raising taxes - just like we promised.
Like most families, the Wauwatosa School District is using the tools passed in Wisconsin Act 10, the budget repair bill, to have employees contribute more to their health care and pensions.
With those savings, they are launching a new second language program,opening a Montessori school and exploring hybrid classes which combine online learning with classroom instruction. They are doing all of that without raising taxes. In fact, some residents will see their bill go down. The Wauwatosa superintendent told Wauwatosa Now: “All of these things would not be possible, if we weren’t able to get those types of concessions.”
Lower taxes and a stable economy send a strong message that Wisconsin is open for business again. By contrast, Democratic lawmakers in Illinois passed massive tax hikes and are still facing an $8 billion deficit. Now, not surprisingly, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is supporting legislation to scale back collective bargaining powers of state unions.
Wisconsin is headed in a smarter direction and the rest of the nation is paying attention. We’ve already seen some companies move from Illinois to Wisconsin. I expect that trend to continue.
Wisconsin is open for business and this budget proves it.
State Sen. Alberta Darling represents the 8th District, which includes Menomonee Falls, Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, Fox Point and Bayside.