Reaction to Gov. Walker's budget - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Reaction to Gov. Walker's budget

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Reaction to Gov. Walker's budget came quickly after he delivered it Wednesday night. 

Below are statements sent by state lawmakers:

Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona)

"Two years ago Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans cut a record $1.6 billion from K-12 public education plus $70 million from Technical Colleges and $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System.  These were body blows to Wisconsin's long and proud history of investing in one of the best education systems in the country.

"As a result, public schools experienced record staff reductions, increased class sizes, and reduced offerings.  College students and their families paid higher tuitions.  Technical Colleges reduced offerings in the very classes that provide training needed by Wisconsin employers, but were costly to provide.

"The budget unveiled today is a huge disappointment for those who want to see a renewal of a commitment to educational excellence.  The Governor's proposed $475 million increase is a pittance compared to the $1.6 billion cut and none of the money will actually go to public schools.  In contrast to no new funding for public schools, the governor offers $94 million for private voucher schools and $800 million increase for transportation.  Perhaps if we renamed education, transportation, it could get funded.

"Underfunding schools is the wrong direction for our Wisconsin students, for their parents, and for a prosperous Wisconsin future."


Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin)

"Tonight is a complete contrast from two years ago" said Lazich. "Two years ago Governor Walker laid out proposals to get us out of a $3.6 billion structural deficit. Fast forward to tonight, Governor Walker is explaining a $419.7 million surplus. We did not get here by accident. Wisconsin is fiscally sound because of prudent, tough decisions and bold reforms during last session."
 
"Governor Walker proposed a budget tonight that invests in Wisconsin's priorities. These decisions do not come lightly. Walker's proposed income tax cut keeps money in taxpayers' pocket that can be invested into our economy. Walker's proposed budget keeps Wisconsin moving forward, towards a prosperous economy with a strong and healthy workforce. "
 
The budget goes to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC). The JFC will schedule agency briefings and public hearings to get feedback about Governor Walker's budget proposal. 
 
"As a Joint Finance Committee member, my main priority is Wisconsin taxpayers. I am confident the State legislature will deliver a balanced budget, and find ways to keep more money in the hands of taxpayers. As a legislature we must remain alert that programs and decisions proposed today affect generations of tomorrow. It's not fair to burden debt upon our children and grandchildren rather than opportunities. "


Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester)

"Governor Walker's commitment to investing in our future—from transportation to education to workforce development—means that Wisconsin will be positioned for long-term success. Our last budget allowed us to make deposits into the rainy day fund, eliminate a structural deficit and finish with a surplus; all without raising taxes. This has allowed us to make big strides toward a more responsible, efficient government with our new biennial budget.
 
"We want to do more to help the people of Wisconsin, which is why our 2013-2015 budget will include an income tax cut for the average state resident. I believe that our constituents know best how to use their money, and have said repeatedly that any surpluses should stay in the taxpayers' pockets.
 
"The governor's budget is a great starting point. The legislature will work diligently to find ways to make his proposals more efficient and effective for the people of Wisconsin."


Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa)

"We will continue to lessen the tax burden of our citizens. 
Families continue to find ways to live within their means, and we as a Legislature will continue to 
do the same while investing in our top priorities."


Senator Vukmir applauds the Governor's decision to include an expansion of the school choice program.
"Giving parents the opportunity to give their children a better education has been a priority of mine ever since I joined the Legislature. I will continue to support educational initiatives that create better options for parents and their children." The Governor included in his budget plans to expand school choice for special needs students. "I am thrilled that our special needs kids will have the ability to use open enrollment that other students have enjoyed throughout the state…and to choose schools that best suit their needs."
 
Governor Walker has rejected federally backed Medicaid expansion and will reduce the number of uninsured by shifting more people to private insurance or health care exchanges. Vukmir adds, "The plan will allow access to affordable health care while at the same time, reducing the number of people on government-run health care. It's a win-win for the state of Wisconsin."
 
Included in the budget is a plan to eliminate the longtime residency rule that police, teachers and public employees have faced in some Wisconsin communities. "I have fought hard to eliminate residency requirements and I'm excited that the Governor stands with me on this. It's crucial that we get rid of residency rules so that we don't limit the pool of qualified applicants." Milwaukee Public Schools are one of only two major metropolitan school districts in the country (Chicago) to have teacher residency requirements and are expected to need to hire 700 new teachers before next school year.


Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette)

"We are encouraged by the direction for Wisconsin that Governor Walker outlined tonight. 
 
Together, last session, we erased a $3.6 billion dollar deficit. Through reforms and responsible budgeting, we now have a $419 million surplus. However; many fiscal challenges lie ahead. The bottom line is that even though Wisconsin is much better off fiscally than we were two years ago, we must continue to be responsible with the money taxpayers have provided and prioritize.
 
Throughout this process, we must protect the taxpayers of Wisconsin, protect our most vulnerable citizens, invest in our future, and create an environment to grow jobs.  The dialogue has begun, the governor has given us a good place to start, and we are confident the legislature will build upon this solid proposal in coming months."


Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson)

"Our top priority must be rebuilding Wisconsin's middle class, and that means creating more family-supporting jobs and strengthening our public educational system.  Unfortunately, the plan Governor Walker has for our state again focuses more on the wants of corporations and partisan special interests than the needs of the people we've been elected to serve.

"Instead of investing in public schools that serve all our children, Governor Walker plans to spend more of our tax dollars on unaccountable, private voucher schools.  He's also turning down a deal to expand BadgerCare – and in the process, turning down 10,500 new jobs and affordable health care for 175,000 of our friends and neighbors.

"I am calling on my Republican colleagues to join me and my fellow Democrats to create a better budget for middle class families.  Last term, we were able to reverse the Governor's plan to end SeniorCare, so I know we can work together.  I hope that we can do it again."


Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma)

"Budgets are about choices. We don't have the details but it appears public education is not getting its fair share, job training at our technical colleges is getting short changed, and roads and bridges are being paid for by borrowing and raiding money that would otherwise go to schools and universities. These are political choices, not the choices voters in Wisconsin would make. They are not the choices that will strengthen our communities or our economy."


Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse)

"As a result of deep cuts that were enacted in the last state budget, Wisconsin now ranks 42nd in job creation and we are dead last among our Midwestern neighbors. We need to take a balanced approach that prioritizes education, worker training, and health care access to encourage business growth and provide opportunities for children and workers throughout the state.

"Unfortunately, Governor Walker's budget ignores these priorities and diverts almost $100 million dollars to expand his unaccountable and underperforming private voucher school program with taxpayer money. Rather than taking money from our communities to subsidize private voucher schools, we should invest in schools that are accountable to the public and provide educational opportunities for all children.

"Throughout the budget process, I will continue to push for investments in our public schools, affordable health care, and proven worker training programs. Taking a balanced approach will produce both immediate and long-term economic benefits, and will ensure that middle class families have the economic security they deserve."


Rep. Michael Schraa (R-Town of Algoma)

"First and foremost, I'm thrilled that Gov. Walker included in his budget an aggressive income tax cut for nearly every taxpayer in Wisconsin.  Letting Wisconsinites keep more of their hard-earned money will generate a huge boost to the economy as that money is spent in communities throughout the state.  This is especially important after Wisconsin taxpayers lost $2.2 billion to the federal payroll tax hike earlier this year.
 
"I also applaud Gov. Walker for making this tax cut permanent.  I've watched in disgust as politicians in Washington, D.C., have argued endlessly over extending tax cuts, and that's something I want to avoid in Wisconsin.  The tax money is the property of the taxpayers first, and they deserve to keep as much of it as possible.
 
"I'm incredibly happy to see entitlement reforms in the budget as well, which is one of the largest expenditures of the state.  With reforms, the budget still calls for over $700 million in new funds for health services for the poor.
 
"The budget isn't perfect, however.  I'm concerned that Gov. Walker has proposed increasing spending by over $1.8 billion, after the previous budgets ballooned by over $17 billion over 12 years.  I believe Wisconsin needs to flatten government spending and I look forward to working with my colleagues to find cuts to reach that goal.
 
"Overall, I'm pleased with Gov. Walker's proposal, and I look forward to digging into all aspects of it over the course of the next couple months."


Sen. Frank Lasee (R-1st Senate District)

"Tonight, Governor Walker announced his budget, and I am encouraged by his vision for the state", said Senator Frank Lasee. "This plan does the most good for the most people without spending money Wisconsin does not have." "Smart budgeting will help the state create jobs and grow our economy."
 
"The infrastructure investments Governor Walker has proposed are essential to keeping Wisconsin's economy moving forward." "I support the Governor's allocation of $10.7 million to the Harbor Assistance Program, but some of this money must go towards dredging Washington Island's Detroit Harbor in order to assure safety and commerce for Washington Island's residents." 
 
The Governor also proposed Medicaid and FoodShare reforms as part of his budget plan. Speaking of the reforms, Lasee commented "The Governor is committed to helping those truly in need while not having government do for people what they can do for themselves, and I appreciate his leadership on this much needed reform."
 
"Reforming Medicaid will drastically reduce the number of uninsured adults in the state by supporting coverage for low-income individuals through private health insurance." "Most importantly, Governor Walker's plan accomplishes this without signing the state up to foot the bill for Obamacare's inevitable cost overruns."
 
"The Governor's FoodShare proposal will help get those Wisconsinites who are able back to work by requiring employment and worker training to stay eligible for benefits."
 
Finally, Governor Walker has proposed doing what any government that takes in more than it spends should: return money to hardworking, middle class taxpayers. "Letting Wisconsin taxpayers keep more of their money will strengthen family pocketbooks and provide an extra boost to our state's economy."
 
"This is a budget with many good ideas for Wisconsin. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the State Senate to take action on these proposals."


Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)

This is what responsible government looks like.  In this budget, we will be able to invest in our priorities because we made tough but forward-looking decisions in the last.  At a time when the federal government and many state governments are drowning in excessive spending and paralyzing debt, Wisconsin stands on a strong foundation built for prosperity.
 
A government that promotes reckless levels of spending and debt does not solve its problems, it only enhances them.  We will prove once again in this budget that spending money more wisely and efficiently is the solution to our state's most pressing challenges.  Both the present and future generations of Wisconsinites are undoubtedly better off because of our prudent approach to state finances.
 
I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature to deliver another balanced budget, one that provides a tax cut for middle class families, while investing more money in our schools, roads, and programs for those in need.
 
Together, we have and will continue to move Wisconsin forward.


Rep. Debra Kolste (D-Janesville)

"No state in the Midwest is doing worse in job growth than Wisconsin,'' Kolste said.  "Governor Walker apparently intends to double down on failed policy.''

Kolste campaigned on working to improve education, providing access to health care and finding ways to create family-supporting jobs, she said.

Governor Walker kept referring to his budget initiatives as "performance based,'' Kolste said.  "But his performance on jobs and the economy in his first two years doesn't measure up.''

She finds it ironic that the phrase "performance based'' is attached to a budget that invests heavily in voucher schools, she said.  "Voucher schools aren't accountable to the public for their performance,'' she added.

The governor's claim that his Medicaid plan will give more people access to medical care in Wisconsin simply untrue, Kolste said.

"Of all the empty rhetoric we heard in the budget address, his plan for people without health care is the most galling,'' Kolste said.  "His numbers just don't add up,'' she said.  "Low income families won't be able to afford the copays and deductibles.''

"This administration's priorities appear to be to leave out Wisconsin values of education, increasing access to health care and creating jobs with living wages,'' Kolste said.

The 2010 budget cut more than $1.6 billion from public education, Kolste said.  This budget returns a tiny portion of that while funneling money to unaccountable voucher schools.  The governor seems intent on damaging public schools, she said.

"The attack on public schools is an attack on working and middle class families,'' Kolste said.  "Good public schools drove prosperity in this state and nation for decades.''

Kolste noted that some legislative Republicans have criticized the expansion of voucher schools and the rejection of the federal Medicaid money.

"I am hopeful but not confident that common sense will prevail and some of the worst aspects of this budget are changed,'' she said.

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