Tag Archives: Scott Walker
This looks like something of a semantic argument.
BLANCHARDVILLE (WKOW) — Gov. Scott Walker told 27 News Thursday he does not want to penalize school districts that increase operating revenues through referendum votes, putting him at odds with some Republican lawmakers who put forth that proposal last month.
Walker made those comments after speaking to students at Pecatonica High School.
“The question might be whether or not the aidable assistance goes up. realistically, if there was anything, that would be more of the adjustment, it wouldn’t be taking money away,” said Gov. Walker. “It would just a be a question of whether you’d be giving more to those districts who choose to do that, because one of the other complaints I hear from school districts is, if they choose not to do that, they feel like they’re penalized if they operate within their budgets and somebody else goes beyond that. But I certainly wouldn’t penalize it.”
As I read that comment, Walker does not want to “penalize” school districts that pas an operating referendum, but he is okay with an “adjustment.” Walker is saying that if a school district wants to increase their taxes and spending through a referendum, that’s fine, but state taxpayers won’t be kicking in anything extra.
MADISON – For the third time this week, a potential challenger to GOP Gov. Scott Walker has ruled out a 2018 run against him.
This time it’s Madison tech executive Mark Bakken, who had been getting attention from Democrats because of his success founding an IT consulting company and because he could have brought formidable financial resources into a race.
In phone calls to close associates Friday, Bakken ruled out a run and said he would focus instead on his business ventures, according to sources who spoke directly with Bakken. The decision increases the chances that trial attorney and state Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) could announce a run against Walker, since Wachs is a friend of Bakken’s and would have been unlikely to run against the executive.
What’s interesting is that, on paper, Walker is extremely vulnerable next year. His approval rating is below 50%. Historic trends says that next year should be a big Democratic year. If the Wisconsin Democrats can field a decent candidate, he or she should stand a pretty good chance. And yet, nobody of any prominence is stepping forward for the Democrats. In fact, many of them are pulling their names off of the list early.
I suspect hat two things are at play. First, the Wisconsin Democratic Party is devoid of any top tier talent. The last six years have decimated their bench. Second, Walker isn’t as vulnerable as he appears. He has never polled very high, but his strength lies in his ability to turn out nearly universal and massive turnout of the Republican base. While many conservatives in the base were frustrated with him when he ran for president and went wobbly, he appears to have returned to the fold. The Democrats know this too and no prominent Democrats wants to be the next Burke or Barrett and have their political careers run aground on the shoals of Isla Walker.
The Democrats have to run someone… theoretically. Who will it be?
My column for the Daily News is online. Here you go:
Gov. Scott Walker has taken the first step in Wisconsin’s biennial budget process by introducing his executive budget. Walker calls it a “reform dividend” budget that is able to boost spending thanks to the reforms enacted in earlier budgets. There is a lot to like about Walker’s budget, but it suffers from a fundamental flaw: it spends way too much.
The governor’s executive budget is the first step in what will be a lengthy legislative process before Wisconsin gets to a final budget. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will begin working through the governor’s budget to add and remove their own priorities. The budget that comes out of the JFC will then be debated and passed by both houses of the legislature; the versions that pass each legislative house will be reconciled and sent to the governor; the governor will issue vetoes; the legislature will consider overriding vetoes; and then we will have a final budget. There is a long way to go.
Despite the fact that the governor and both houses of the Legislature hail from the same political party, there are some sharp differences of opinion regarding Wisconsin’s budget priorities. There have already been fierce intraparty clashes over transportation funding, debt load, potential tax increases, and other issues. The final budget will look substantially different than the governor’s budget proposal, but Walker has begun the conversation by making his priorities clear.
Signaling that Walker intends to run for reelection next year, his budget includes a lot of tax cuts and spending increases targeted at various interest groups. Most of the nearly $600 million in tax cuts comes from changes to the income tax and eliminating a portion of the state property tax, but the budget also includes several smaller targeted tax cuts.
The governor’s budget increases spending in a number of areas including an additional $649 million for K-12 schools and $105.2 million more for the University of Wisconsin System. There are also spending increases for tech schools, welfare, work force development, prisons, historical society, health services, transportation, the building commission, shared revenue and more.
Walker’s budget also includes some terrific reforms and accountability measures. The budget finally eliminates prevailing wage statewide, which will save taxpayers millions of dollars on needed work. It contains reforms to welfare and work force development designed to help people break the cycle of poverty and become successful in the work force. Under this budget, Wisconsin will self-insure its employees for health coverage. This is something that many large companies already do and will save taxpayers millions of dollars.
In what is garnering the most pushback, Walker’s budget increases spending for K-12 education and the University of Wisconsin, but does so with some added accountability. K-12 schools that have not already taken advantage of the tools given them in Act 10 to make reforms may not be eligible for the increased state funding. Much of the increased spending on UW will only come after UW makes reforms like offering a 3-year degree option.
But for all of the good it contains, one cannot escape the fact that Walker’s budget still spends too much. Indeed, despite the myth of “cuts” and “austerity” perpetuated by both political parties, Wisconsin has increased spending in every budget Walker has signed. This is despite the fact that Wisconsinites’ ability to pay has still not recovered from the Great Recession.
Let us look at the numbers. Gov. Jim Doyle’s last biennial budget for 2009-11 spent $61.9 billion. The first Walker budget spent $64.1 billion. Since then, Wisconsin’s biennial budgets have increased spending every time to $68 billion to $72.6 billion and now $76.1 billion. The budget that Walker just proposed spends a full 23 percent more than Gov. Doyle’s final budget. “Austerity,” my foot.
Meanwhile, over the same time period, Wisconsinites’ income has struggled. In 2008, the year before Gov. Doyle passed his last budget, the real median household income in Wisconsin was $57,348. It took a beating in 2009 after the Great Recession and dropped to $55,227. Since then, real median household income has dropped more before finally inching up last year. It still has not recovered to the 2008 level. The real median household income since 2009 has moved to $53,269, $53,110, $52,709, $52,370, $52,683, and finally in 2015, to $55,638. As you can see, the median Wisconsin household is earning $1,710 less per year since 2008, but being asked to pay for a state budget that spends 23 percent more.
If Wisconsin’s state spending largesse cannot be justified by an increase in Wisconsinites’ ability to pay, then perhaps the increased spending is being offset by an increase in population and new taxpayers? No. Since 2010, Wisconsin’s population has only increased 1.6 percent. And according to IRS migration data, the aggregate adjusted gross income for people leaving Wisconsin is greater than those coming in. Essentially, Wisconsin is losing higher-earners and retirees to low-tax states and replacing them with lower earners.
Gov. Walker and the Republicans deserve tremendous credit for the immensely beneficial and consequential budgetary reforms they have enacted and for managing the state’s finances in a responsible manner. Long gone are the Doyle budgets of massive deficits and illegal fund raids thanks to mature management of the state’s finances.
But Wisconsin remains a tax hell precisely because it remains a spending hell. For all of the good that Walker and the Republicans have done, they have not addressed this fundamental problem and it drags down everything from economic growth to work force availability to the everyday lives of Wisconsinites just trying to keep enough of their money to build a better life for themselves.
Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday called for nearly $600 million in reduced taxes and fees along with significant new spending in areas where he made sizable cuts in the past as part of his $76.1 billion two-year budget proposal.
Total spending under the plan would grow by nearly $2 billion, or 4.2 percent over the previous two-year budget. Taxpayer-supported spending would increase nearly $600 million. The total number of state employees, who would receive two 2 percent raises and have their health care managed and paid for by the state, would increase by about 262 positions, including about 20 taxpayer-supported positions.
The budget includes several changes to state government, including proposals to self-insure all employees, centralize more agency administrative functions under the Department of Administration and eliminate printing and mailing requirements in several areas.
There’s a lot to unwrap in this proposal. There’s some good stuff in it, but my overall reaction is that it is a budget that still spends too much. Wisconsin is a high tax state because it spends too dang much. Not a single one of the budgets under Walker actually cut spending. They held back on the rate of growth, but every budget spent more than the last. Now this budget is increasing spending even more and “paying” for it with hopeful economic projections.
When does Walker actually cut spending and justify the hatred of his opponents? I’d like to actually see a real cut, but I fear that the only way I will ever live in a state that actually controls spending will be to move to one that does. It isn’t in the Wisconsin DNA.
Here’re some of the details.
*ending the $50 million lapse the system was required to make in the 2015-17 budget.
*giving the system $42.5 million in performance-based funding.
*providing an $11.6 million block grant so the system could boost pay for employees.
*providing grants of $700,000 in financial aid to students taking flex option courses, $200,000 to expand a program that provides financial support to expand the Wisconsin Rural Physician Residency Assistance program, and $100,000 to support Alzheimer’s research.
So it appears that Walker has decided that he wants to run for reelection in 2018. As part of his effort to bolster his sagging approval rating, he wants to dump an enormous amount of taxpayer money into government institutions. By my count, we’re already pushing over a billion dollars in new spending without an offset anywhere in sight.
Here’s a list of specifics:
The governor’s budget would provide over the two years:
- $509 million for broad public school aid that districts could spend on teaching: a $200 per pupil increase for the 2017-’18 school year and an additional $204 increase in the 2018-’19 school year. This increase wouldn’t go through the state’s general aid formula, flowing instead through a special aid category with its own formula and the possibility that it could benefit suburban schools more than urban ones.
- A similar increase in money per student for taxpayer-funded private voucher schools to meet a requirement previously approved by Walker and lawmakers.
- $11.5 billion in total state spending on education, a new high before accounting for inflation, and enough to cover 64.6% of the cost of K-12 schools statewide. That would be below the state’s onetime target of paying for two-thirds of the cost of schools but is the best level since 2009, when the state hit 65.8% under then Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat.
- Total state school aid per public school increases — both general and special categories — to $6,588 in 2017-’18 and $6,902 in 2018-’19, a 3% bump in the first year and a 4.5% increase in the second from the current level of $6,376.
- $5.6 million in the 2018-’19 academic year for low-performing schools in Milwaukee to encourage improvements. Public, charter and taxpayer-funded private voucher schools could all compete for that money in the city, where 42 public schools didn’t meet expectations in the most recent report card.
- $2.8 million toward Milwaukee Public Schools’ summer school program.
- A range of funding for students with mental illness, including $2.5 million to connect students with mental health services; $500,000 more for students in Milwaukee through a different program; $3 million for school social workers in public and charter schools that are independent of public districts; and $1 million to train school workers on mental health screening.
- $7.6 million to help school districts connect disabled students with jobs.
- $300,000 for an online-based anti-bullying program being developed by Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the Department of Public Instruction.
As we have definitively determined, more money does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. I’d like to see what specific outcomes these expenditures are designed to improve.
Walker said he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence during his Friday visit to the White House about his 2011 move to sharply limit collective bargaining for most public workers in Wisconsin, known as Act 10.
The governor said he and Pence talked about “what we’ve done here in Wisconsin, how they may take bits and pieces of what we did with Act 10 and with civil service reform, and how they could apply that at the national level” for federal workers.
“It’s something that they’re interested in. The vice president has brought up before,” Walker said. “It’s certainly something we’re willing to offer our assistance on, particularly if it helps improve not just the nation, but in turn helps improve the ability to be better stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars here in Wisconsin.”
There is a LOT to like in these proposals.
Wisconsin Works for Everyone, which will be included in Governor Walker’s budget proposal this coming February, seeks to extend work requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children who are receiving FoodShare, as well as to able-bodied adults receiving housing assistance. Just like Governor Thompson’s reforms, these initial changes would take place on a pilot basis.
Governor Walker’s full proposal will increase investment in job and skills training for the unemployed and underemployed, reduce barriers to work and increased earnings, and expand programs that incentivize employment. Where flexibility is needed, it will also aggressively seek federal waivers under a new incoming administration to encourage work and enhance self-sufficiency, including to pilot work requirements for working-age, able-bodied adults receiving housing vouchers.
As part of the proposal, job training programs will be significantly expanded for the unemployed or underemployed receiving FoodShare, the incarcerated and ex-offenders, and low-income noncustodial parents involved in the child support system.
Additionally, barriers to work will be addressed through reforms that reduce occupational licensing and eliminate the benefits cliff in child care subsidies, which can leave families financially worse off if they take a raise or work more hours. Barriers to work would also be eliminated for those enrolled in the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP), by removing the premium cliff as people transition into earning more income.
Wisconsin Works for Everyone will also expand programs that incentivize and reward employment by establishing an earned-income tax credit groups who often struggle to connect with work, including young adults aging out of foster care, as well as those who exit the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) child disability program at age 18.
There are many details to work out, but the thrust of the proposals are clear. Walker wants to revamp our welfare programs to incent work, enable folks to get into the workforce, and smooth out the transition from welfare to work so that people don’t get hammered for improving their lives. I know the phrase is loaded, but this breathes “compassionate conservatism.”
It’s good to see Walker turning his considerable energy and talent back to Wisconsin after the distraction of the presidential campaign. There is so much more he can do for this state.
This is an interesting proposal.
Gov. Scott Walker said during his seventh State of the State address Tuesday he will cut in-state tuition at all University of Wisconsin campuses in his upcoming budget proposal.
[…]Walker said after the speech the tuition cut will be covered with additional state taxpayer dollars. Republican leaders of the Legislature’s budget committee reserved judgment until seeing more details.
Even though I have kids who would benefit from a cut in tuition, I don’t like the plan as a matter of public policy. The root cause of the reason that tuition is so high is because the universities spend too much. They have to pay for that spending with something. Until such point as the universities control their spending to a greater degree to bring it in line with the state taxpayers’ and students’ ability to afford them, anything that sends them more funding will only exacerbate the problem.
But, as I said, there are details yet to be known. Let’s see what the full proposal looks like.
Brett Healy at the MacIver Institute provides a good reminder of just how much the budget situation in Wisconsin has improved.
As Wisconsin prepares to begin the next budget cycle, the state’s finances are in solid shape. While taxes have been cut repeatedly, state revenues grew 4 percent from fiscal year 2015 to FY16, a jump from $9.49 billion to $9.87 billion. Overall revenues are projected to continue growing by about 3 percent annually over the next biennium with a modest economic growth projection of 2.2 percent per year.
Wisconsin closed the books on the 2015-16 fiscal year with a positive balance of $331 million. “The State of Wisconsin completed fiscal year 2015-16 with a positive general fund balance of $331.0 million. With this total, we entered fiscal year 2016-17 with the fourth-largest opening balance in 16 years, all four coming after fiscal year 2010-11,” stated Department of Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel.
Total projected revenue in the next biennium is expected to increase by about $1.4 billion over the 2016-17 base. A healthy revenue stream means that Wisconsin is well-positioned for a deliberative, non-feverish budget debate in the coming months.
That’s a stark difference from just a few short budget cycles ago. Back in the Doyle years, Wisconsin lurched from one budget calamity to the next. In response to massive shortfalls between budgets, Doyle and his allies raised taxes, raided funds like the transportation fund, and used every budget gimmick they could to meet the state’s balanced budget mandate.
In the era of Walker, it seems those days are over.
Go read the rest of the piece. It’s long, but gives a great rundown of the landscape for the upcoming budget debate.
“Workforce development is going to be the number one priority moving forward, because if you improve the workforce of the state, we improve the economic vitality of the state, and we improve the ability to expand jobs and prosperity to the state,” Walker told the bankers group.
That statement alone is Economics 101: Most experts agree that having the right workforce in place is essential to the economic health of nations, states and communities.
However, Walker’s previews are revealing a far more comprehensive plan to confront Wisconsin’s demographic crunch through educating, retaining, recruiting, rehabilitating or otherwise cajoling every worker possible.
It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach that reflects the seriousness of the problem.
Like many states, Wisconsin faces a wave of Baby Boomer retirements – only more so. Also, birth rates have declined, as reflected in school enrollment figures, and out-migration of workers (the so-called “brain drain”) remains an issue. Wisconsin is also low on the list of states that attract immigrants, who often fill workforce gaps. Unless trends change within 10 years or so, there could be fewer working adults in Wisconsin than there are retirees.
See my column today for one thing that Walker can address. One of the reasons that Wisconsin struggles to attract workers is because it’s too dang expensive to live here. Bold reforms that truly make Wisconsin’s government more affordable would be a boon to the workforce.
Former Superior mayor David Ross has been named Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday announced that Ross will move to transportation on Jan. 7 from his current job as secretary of the state for the Department of Safety and Professional Services.
Mark Gottlieb, outgoing transportation secretary, offered his resignation to Walker taking effect Jan. 6.
It’s a big jump for Ross, 64. The transportation department is one of the largest state agencies, with 3,500 employees and an annual budget of more than $3.5 billion. The department supports state highways, local roads, railroads, public transit systems, airports, harbors and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. The department also serves 50,000 people each day through the Division of Motor Vehicles and includes the Division of State Patrol which enforces laws and aids motorists throughout the state.
“Dave Ross has been an outstanding leader for our administration at the DSPS since 2011,” Walker said in a prepared statement. “Dave has always looked to improve the way government operates, and I am confident he will bring the same innovative, taxpayer-first approach to the DOT.”
Walker has been firm in that he will not support a tax increase for transportation unless it’s offset by a decrease elsewhere. Gottlieb was apparently firmly in Speaker Vos’ court and was actively pushing for a tax increase and more spending. He was fighting against Walker instead of finding ways to achieve Walker’s goals for transportation. And now Gottlieb is gone and being IMMEDIATELY replaced by a loyal Walker conservative.
This is a positive development for those of us who think that the Department of Transportation still spends too much and that a tax increase should be off the table.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If that is the case, then the people who are constantly surprised when welfare reform that incents work and requires responsibility actually works must be lapsing into bouts of insanity.
Twenty years ago, Gov. Tommy Thompson signed one of his signature achievements into law. Wisconsin Works (W-2) fundamentally reformed welfare and became a model for other states and the federal government.
W-2 was based on a very simple premise. If you are able to work, you must work in order to receive assistance from the taxpayers. Thompson understood that taxpayers are fundamentally decent. They are willing to lend a hand up to people and families who are down on their luck or unable to work, but every person should be expected to work as much as they are able before handing them a dollar that was taken from another working person.
W-2 was a revolutionary success. Former welfare recipients went back to work and the number of people on welfare plummeted. That is not to say that it was less expensive for taxpayers. Actually, spending on various assistance programs increased dramatically under Thompson as Wisconsin rewarded working people who still did not earn enough to get by with generous subsidies as they continued to improve their lot.
But beyond the tangible benefit to the state of former welfare recipients working and contributing to the betterment of their communities as they bettered themselves, the intangible benefits were enormous. There is a fundamental human dignity that comes through work. People take more pride in themselves and in the material things they purchase with money earned from their labor. There are innumerable stories of families who look back on the implementation of W-2 as a transformative event in their lives that opened doors to a brighter future.
Thompson’s W-2 was so impactful, the Republicans in Congress and President Bill Clinton used it as the model for the federal welfare reform they passed into law later the same year. The results mirrored those in Wisconsin. The latter half of the 1990s saw welfare, poverty and unemployment rates drop all over the nation.
The natural course of democratic government, however, is to drift toward liberalism. As the 21st century progressed, both the state of Wisconsin and the federal government gradually eased the work requirements for welfare while continuing to increase spending. The welfare rolls gradually climbed higher as it became easier for people to receive taxpayer-funded benefits with fewer restrictions or requirements. Unemployment and poverty pushed stubbornly higher in the poorest neighborhoods.
Then along came Gov. Scott Walker with the same tried and true idea. Last year, the Republican-led state Legislature and Walker reformed Wisconsin’s FoodShare program to require people who are able to work, to work. Just like Thompson, Walker’s reform coupled the work requirements with generous free training and other resources to help people get back to work.
Walker’s reform of FoodShare has been a sensational success. Anybody who remembered W-2 and its policy children could have predicted as much. In only 15 months, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reports 38 percent of people who were eligible for FoodShare benefits have found employment averaging more than 32 hours per week at an average of $11.99 per hour.
Meanwhile, another roughly 50,000 people stopped receiving FoodShare benefits because they failed to meet the work requirements despite being able to work. Those are people who obviously did not need the benefits enough to get off their rear ends and demonstrate even a modicum of effort.
The results of Walker’s most recent welfare reform was entirely predictable. Conservative welfare reform works. Every time. To think that it would not is, by definition, insanity.
Assembly Republicans have floated the idea of raising revenues for transportation work to hold down borrowing and avoid project delays, but Fitzgerald noted Thursday that Walker has committed to using his extensive veto powers to block such a move.
“You’ve got to live within the parameters of what he’s already laid out,” Fitzgerald said of Walker, adding that it would be pointless to oppose his own party’s governor. “How’s that productive? You’re going to have to work with the governor.”
One way to resolve the dispute would be to cut other taxes so the gas tax could be increased, he said. But coming up with a way to cut other taxes could prove tricky when state finances are tight.
Vos and the Assembly leadership has been saying that tax increases might be necessary. The Governor has said “no” to any tax increase for roads that isn’t offset by a tax decrease elsewhere. Now the Senate Majority Leader is standing with the Governor. Given that Vos was going to have a very difficult time getting a tax increase passed through the conservative wing of his own caucus anyway, this pretty much kills it. A tax increase will never even make it through the Senate to get to Walker’s desk to veto.
I guess we will have to live within our means – even when it comes to transportation.
“I would think most people in the state would think after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on this that there’s certainly not a lack of work to be done in Milwaukee County on issues related to crime and on other issues,” Walker said. “We hear, not only in that county, but in other counties, about the need for additional district attorneys and additional resources. I think a lot of people wonder, if they continue to spend time after the U.S. Supreme Court were to rule on this, if that’s really necessary, if they have time to spend on this even after the courts have shut it down.”
It worked when Tommy Thompson did it. It worked when Clinton replicated it on a national level. It worked when Walker did it. I sense a pattern.
The existing FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program was redesigned last year to help participants meet the federally mandated criteria while providing them free resources they need to enter the job market so that they can be weaned off government benefits.
Fifteen months after the program’s approximately $60 million recreation, Walker announced that Wisconsin Department of Health Services data shows that 14,400 FSET participants, 38 percent of those eligible, have found employment, averaging $11.99 per hour and working a little over 32 hours a week, which is significantly more than the state’s minimum wage and the minimum requirement to keep food benefits.
My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here you go:
Gov. Scott Walker released his transportation budget proposal last week and made his position perfectly clear when stating he is “not going to raise the gas tax or other associated fees without a corresponding reduction.” That is a welcome statement to this taxpayer.
The issue Wisconsin is facing in the next budget is the forecasted revenue for the transportation fund falls about a billion dollars short of paying for forecasted expenditures. Whether this happens to a family, business or government, there are only three things one can do when this happens: reprioritize and reduce the forecasted spending, borrow money, or find a way to increase revenue. Walker has taken the last option off the table and attacked the issue with a combination of the first two options.
Walker’s justification for refusing to increase revenue by increasing taxes or fees is simply that despite several years of tax cuts, Wisconsinites are still taxed too much. Walker would rather the government do the heavy lifting of prioritizing and cutting back instead of forcing families to do it to pay higher taxes. The governor is right.
Wisconsin’s gas tax is still among the highest in the nation. According to a fact sheet the governor released, at 32.9 cents per gallon, Wisconsin’s total taxes and fees collected at the pump ranks as the 11th highest in the nation. But that is only part of the story. The same Wisconsinites who pay the gas tax also pay all of the rest of Wisconsin’s tax burden, and it is a heavy burden. Wisconsin still ranks as the fifth highest taxed state according to CNN/Money. As State Sen. Duey Stroebel rightly said in a recent column, “With Wisconsin’s overall tax burden still in the top 10, this is no time to be campaigning for higher taxes.”
Meanwhile, it should be noted Wisconsin spends a ton of money on transportation — more than most states. Wisconsin spends about $3.8 billion per year on highways, which ranks 14th nationally. Total transportation spending, including state and local spending, is 33 percent higher than the national average according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In other words, despite cries of “poor” from some folks, there is plenty of money for transportation. Yes, the recipients of that spending always want more, but it is the job of the administration to prioritize the spending within the confines of Wisconsinites’ ability and willingness to pay.
That is exactly what Walker’s budget proposal does. Walker’s transportation budget proposal actually increases state funding for maintenance of existing roads and sends more money to local units of government for their transportation needs. He partially pays for those increases by halting, delaying, and slowing down some existing projects including the widening of Verona Road in Madison, expanding Interstate 94 in Racine and Kenosha, and part of the Zoo Interchange.
Walker’s budget proposal also seeks to borrow $500 million, which, according to the governor, is the lowest level of borrowing since the 2001-03 budget. That is still a lot of borrowing, but using debt to fund major projects used for 30 years by future taxpayers, too. The key is to manage debt sensibly.
Walker is taking the correct approach to managing the state’s transportation needs through prioritization and forcing efficiencies instead of turning to the taxpayers for more money. He is also right to shift more spending to maintaining the roads the state has and away from more expansions. Is it perfect? No. It still spends and borrows too much, but it is a very good start.
During appearances Wednesday in Green Bay and Milwaukee, Gov. Scott Walker will announce a sales tax holiday on school supplies that he will propose in his 2017-’19 budget bill in February. The proposal will need legislative approval, but Assembly Republicans were already set to push for a similar proposal in a separate event earlier scheduled for Wednesday.
That proposal would have decreased state tax revenues by $13.2 million a year and local government tax revenues by $952,000 a year. That would amount to a cut of just one-quarter of 1% of the $5.06 billion in sales tax revenues last year.
I remember when these became the rage across the South. As a consumer, it’s kind of nice to save a few bucks and many stores use the occasion to have promotions and such, but it’s gimmicky. I would prefer real tax reform, but I’ll take it.