MADISON, WI – Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) released his budget proposal plan on Tuesday after much speculation and anticipation over his push to remove many collective bargaining rights from public employees.
The plan manages to avoid any tax increases, government furloughs and major layoffs, as well as fee increases to the public. However, he proposes at least $1.5 billion in cuts from the public school and local government budget.
Though there are no layoffs outlined in Gov. Walker’s plan, the pressure on the public schools and local governments to shoulder cuts without raising property taxes to make up the difference may require smaller municipals to trim the human aspect of their own budgets.
Gov. Walker claims the local governments and public schools will have a quicker reaction time to make the needed cuts due to the restrictions he hopes to impose on collective bargaining by unions.
For his proposal to pass, Gov. Walker is looking for Senate Democrats to return from Illinois, where they have exiled themselves to avoid a vote, to give the Senate a three-fifths quorum required to vote on the bill. Still, the Governor would need a majority vote to execute his proposed budget changes. Those changes include:
- 9 percent cut in aid to schools ($900 Million)
- Public schools reduce property tax authority $550/pupil (average)
- 8.8 percent cut in aid to cities
- 24 percent cut in aid to counties
- $500 million cut to Medicaid (increased deductibles and co-pays)
- 10 percent funding cut to state agencies (excluding salaries and benefits)
He has hinted in his dealings with the public that if he does not get a majority vote on the bill there would be widespread layoffs in the public sector to compensate for budget shortfalls.
“Wisconsin is broke and it’s time to start paying our bills today,” Walker said, “so our kids are not stuck with even bigger bills tomorrow. We need a leaner and cleaner state government.”
Some speculate the irony in his statement to the view that, with his cuts, the lower to middle income children of Wisconsin will burden more of the budget cuts than others. The proposal will also require middle class government employees to pay higher pension and health care benefit as a result of limited bargaining.
Gov. Walker’s proposal would also eliminate state required recycling, which has been in effect since 1995, by eliminating $32 million in grants to state run government programs that provide the money and services. These cuts will affect many of the smaller counties that rely heavily on grants to accommodate for recycling.
Also in Gov. Walker’s proposal is $82 million in tax cuts, some of which are for capital gains realized on investments made in Wisconsin-based businesses, improving upon Gov. Walker’s previously signed legislature of more than $117 million in cuts.
The disdain for Gov. Walker by Senate Democrats was apparent when they refused to stand and greet him along with their Republican members.
Gov. Walker has shown no concern for compromise and this has drawn public ridicule and thousands of protesters to the Capitol for weeks.
Though Gov. Walker’s proposal has drawn such public scorn, there are those who see his move as one that puts a hard-line on government spending and inflating deficits and say he is making tough choices that his predecessor and many other governors around the country were not willing to make.
One of those decisions being to cut $125 million in aid to the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and another $125 million in aid to the remaining University of Wisconsin campuses.
The Governors hope is to eliminate 90 percent of the $2.5 billion deficit. It remains to be seen whether this budget will do more harm to the people of Wisconsin or whether the state will see a dramatic and unprecedented decrease in debt. Either way it can be said that the controversial Gov. Walker has made quite a stir with his proposed budget.