Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Legislators slinging budget criticism, praise

Debate over Gov. Scott McCallum’s plan to eradicate the state budget deficit continued Wednesday after legislators examined the implications of the plan.

The plan, announced Tuesday, would repair the state’s $1.1 billion deficit by slashing funds from the shared revenue program, UW System and corrections, and borrowing money from the state’s tobacco settlement.

Steve Baas, spokesman for Rep. Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha, said he is pleased with the governor’s proposal.

“We are impressed the governor has shown strong leadership,” Jensen said. “And he has done this without raising taxes, which took some courage.”

The governor’s plan, announced Tuesday, is under much scrutiny, but Baas said is to be expected.

“Any budget plan that is going to cut spending is going to face a lot of opposition,” Baas said. “If you rely on the government for a handout, it is important because it is a remarkable loss of support.”

Opponents of the governor’s plan say the plan isn’t viable.

Mike Browne, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, said the wording in the plan is unrealistic and that McCallum’s proposal relies too heavily on cuts to local governments.

“The rhetoric doesn’t meet,” Browne said.

The governor promised to protect schools from budget cuts, but Browne said the plan includes a $20 million cut in school construction costs. This cut has the potential to hurt schools that passed a referendum with the understanding the state would help them.

“This pulls the rug out from underneath them,” he said.

Senate president Fred Risser, D-Madison, said he is opposed to depleting the state’s tobacco settlement fund.

“The governor’s idea of borrowing and paying back the money is a PR effort to get the money,” Risser said. “I feel that we have already taken too much from the fund; the purpose of it was to prevent smoking.”

If the plan passes, the largest share of the $1.1 billion in budget cuts will come from local governments and the UW System.

Cuts to local government will mean the gradual phase-out of the shared revenue program and will be hard to sell to legislators who are dependent on state funds, Risser said.

Cutting funding from the UW System could be a mistake, according to some opponents of the plan.

Browne said the university is an integral part of the state economy, and cutting funds should not be a long-term or short-term solution to the budget problem.

Risser said the best solution is to maintain the UW System.

“To come back on [education as a priority] is hypocritical,” Risser said. “The university should not be contracting at all; it is an investment that pays back many dividends.”

The governor challenged critics of the proposal to come up with alternate cuts and solutions. Risser said another possible solution would be to raise the cigarette tax to $1. He said, this increase would bring in $80 million and would make cigarettes less appealing to teens.

Another solution would be to reduce the yearly income-tax reduction. This would save the state $100 million, Risser said.

Baas said the governor’s budget deficit proposal was necessary.

“On a philosophical level, people realize is it time for the government to cut back spending and live within their means, just as citizens have to live within their means,” he said.

Baas said he expects there will be changes made to the plan but an increase in taxes will not be one of them.

“One change we wouldn’t make to [the plan] is including a tax increase,” Baas said. “The budget spends way too much money and needs to focus on reforms, not taxes.”

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said the best way to deal with the governor’s budget proposal is to hold public hearings and get feedback from citizens.

“There is so much in here from raiding the tobacco fund to cuts in a lot of departments and cuts in local government,” Pocan said. “We want to get input from the public.”

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