Republican lawmakers cast doubt on several budget items proposed - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Republican lawmakers cast doubt on several budget items proposed by Gov. Walker

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Governor Scott Walker is promising a lot of new spending and tax cuts in the next two-year state budget, leaving many of his Republican colleagues in the legislature expressing doubt about how many of his proposals will actually be in the final version they send back to him for a signature later this year.
The biggest item of note for Governor Walker is a projected tax cut of $593 million, more than one-third of which will come in the form of an income tax reduction.

"Overall, income taxes for a typical family will go down by more than $130 in this budget," Gov. Walker announced in his 2017-19 budget address to the legislature Tuesday afternoon.

Gov .Walker also wants to increase public school funding by $650 million.

"Just in case any of you missed that, let me repeat it. We are investing more money into public education than ever before," said Gov. Walker.

Department of Public Instruction (DPI) Superintendent Tony Evers is thrilled by that proposal.

"This budget actually takes a lot of what I put in the (DPI) budget to meet those needs," said Dr. Evers.

Republican lawmakers - who control both houses of the legislature - like the concept of both proposals.

"A lot of the things I think we can get behind. They may not be at the exact same spending level as what he's proposed, but I do believe a lot of the things we're gonna be supportive of," said Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance.

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald noted the total tax cut may end up being closer to $100 million.

But a number of other items on the Governor's wish list already appear to be dead on arrival in the legislature.

That includes switching health care for roughly 250,000 state employees to a "self-insurance" model.

Under that plan, the state would fund it's own health insurance plan and hire a third-party to administer it.

Right now, state employees are allowed to choose from a variety of health plans offered by several different private insurance companies.

Gov. Walker said the switch would save the state $60 million in general purpose revenue dollars and another $60 million for the UW System over the next two years.

"I think a lot of people are doubtful about the real, long-term savings," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington). "And the concern that I have, just as a private sector person, is I don't want to do something that disrupts the (insurance) market."

Gov. Walker is also proposing a tuition cut for UW Systems students that would cost the state $35 million.

"We have cut tuition already by freezing it four years in a row," said Nygren. "I am not hearing a great deal of support for a five percent cut, but that will be something we can debate."

Both Speaker Vos and Rep. Nygren also expressed dismay that Gov. Walker is touting a $600 million tax cut without proposing any new revenue for the state's transportation fund, which is operating at a deficit of at least $1 billion.

The debate over Gov. Walker's proposals now heads to Joint Committee on Finance, which will hold public hearings and make changes to the budget over the next several months.

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