Our state budget is a moral document that represents the blueprint for Wisconsin’s shared vision as a state. However, with a simple pen stroke on Sunday, June 26, Governor Scott Walker signed off on a radical reversal of our state’s values and priorities by approving a budget that shifts billions of dollars from public education, healthcare, and local services to fund handouts for special interests and tax breaks for big corporations.
This budget slashes aid to public schools by nearly $1.6 billion, while dramatically expanding taxpayer support for unaccountable, unproven voucher schools. It also cuts funding to the UW System by $250 million and reduces aid to our technical colleges by roughly 30 percent.
It passes the buck to our local governments through slashing roughly $76 million in shared revenue, while undermining local autonomy and restricting their ability to effectively mitigate the cuts. After years of doing more with less, this will impact our local communities’ ability to provide quality services and programs that we depend on every day.
It grants Walker’s administration sweeping and unprecedented authority to gouge medical assistance programs – such as BadgerCare, SeniorCare, and Family Care – by almost a half billion dollars. They can make these cuts through changes through decreasing eligibility, increasing premiums, and cutting services – all with little to no public input or legislative oversight.
It severely restricts women’s and children’s access to preventive health services and jeopardizes vital family planning services – which not only save lives, but also save taxpayer dollars – for 57,000 women and men throughout the state.
Where are Governor Walker and legislative Republicans choosing to send the billions being cut from our public schools, medical assistance programs, and local communities? Largely to big corporations, wealthy donors, and special interests, as their choices this session will hand out over $2 billion in tax breaks and loopholes over the next decade.
This budget also breaks repeated promises made by Governor Walker and legislative Republicans. While they have promised that their budget would not raise property taxes, it does. A non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis projects a general property tax increase for property owners, in addition to a $13.6 million property tax increase on 247,000 homeowners and renters who are already struggling to get by and utilize the Homestead Tax Credit.
They also promised their budget would not increase spending, hike fees, or raid funds. However, this budget hikes fees by $111 million, increases state spending by $1.1 billion, and raids $411 million in funds.
During the final floor debate, I, along with many of my other colleagues, offered a series of common-sense amendments that would shift funding from private schools back to public schools, restore vital job training for displaced workers, secure continued access to affordable health care, protect local control, and ensure a more transparent and honest government. I believe at least some of these amendments should have received broad bipartisan support, but Republicans time and time again chose special interests over working families in defeating these well-thought ideas.
Not only is our state budget a moral document, but it is one that involves choices and decisions necessary to guide a path for our state. Unfortunately, I believe Gov. Walker and the legislative Republicans have taken our state completely off course. They decided to place corporate tax loopholes and special interest giveaways before adequately funding public education, ensuring access to affordable health care, and providing our local communities with the real tools they need to thrive and prosper.
The people of Wisconsin need and deserve better. Even though this budget has now been signed into law, we must – and will – continue the fight to ensure that Wisconsin values are restored and preserved to reflect our priorities for future generations.
State Rep. Sandy Pasch (D – Whitefish Bay) represents Wisconsin’s 22nd Assembly District, which includes Fox Point, River Hills, Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, and parts of Glendale and Milwaukee