Gov. Scott Walker’s 2015-17 biennial budget proposal is the foundation for the continued success of the state of Wisconsin, focusing on the main areas of education, welfare, taxes, the UW System and health care. Why did Wisconsin elect him three times in four years? Because the governor proposes big ideas, follows through on his promises and makes sure Wisconsin is a leader in our country. The proposals follow the theme of equal opportunity with self-determination.
When it comes to education, the budget will give parents more freedom in choosing education for their children. His proposed budget lifts the current cap on vouchers for the school choice program. By doing so, more families will have more opportunities to give their children the best education possible. Walker also included proposals to increase funding to public education, while also ensuring property taxes remain low. In his budget address, Walker put forth his winning record on education — since he has been in office, graduation rates are up and ACT scores are second best in the nation.
Acting on a campaign promise, Walker also proposed to drug test able-bodied adults without children who are receiving a welfare check. Walker’s proposal is unique compared to other states because it would enroll those who fail the drug test into a treatment program. Our state’s economy is continuing to grow and employers need workers who are ready and willing to work. This program works to transition individuals from government dependence to true independence through work.
Included in this budget are further reforms to ensure that property taxes continue to decrease. Because of Walker’s previous actions, the average Wisconsin family is paying $131 less in property taxes than in 2010. Property taxes in 2016 will be lower than they were last year, which makes six straight years of lower property taxes. Wisconsin has one of the highest property taxes in the country, and Walker’s continued reforms have lessened the tax burden on Wisconsin families.
As has been discussed extensively in the Madison community, Walker is proposing cutting funding to the University of Wisconsin System by $150 million over each of the next two years. These cuts, while they seem like a huge sum of money to us college students, are actually only equal to 2.5 percent of the total system’s budget. Coupled with the reduction in funding, though, is more autonomy for the UW System, which will give greater flexibility and savings in the long run. Something like this has already proven successful with the affiliated UW Hospital and Clinics.
You may have heard, “Walker is cutting funding for UW, but giving money to the Bucks.” Wrong. Walker is offering $220 million in state bonding to help fund a part of the needed arena. These debt payments would be paid by growth in the jock tax (revenue from the Bucks, players and visiting teams). That means the revenue from this tax will still go to general state funds (it never went straight to the UW System), but the growth in this revenue from the jock tax over the next several years will help fund the stadium. This is essentially the NBA paying for its own arena in order to keep a vital part of the Milwaukee community in the city.
In this budget, Walker has also continued his support for the most needy families of Wisconsin by ensuring funding for health care coverage. Specifically, $600 million will be put into funding Medicaid, which cares for families, children and seniors. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Wisconsin is the only state that rejected the ObamaCare expansion that does not have a coverage gap. That means taxpayers saved $752 million and everyone that needs health insurance has access to it. Sounds like a win all around to us.
Continuing Wisconsin’s educational reforms and successes? Check. Making it easier for people to get a job? Check. Reducing the tax burden on the citizens of the state? Check. Giving the UW System the opportunity to become even stronger in the future? Check. Providing a plan to keep a vital part of Milwaukee in the city? Check. No health care coverage gap? Check. The governor’s budget is an excellent foundation, which we are confident the Legislature will build on to guarantee the future success of our state.
Anthony Birch ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in political science and strategic communication and Charlie Hoffmann ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in economics and strategic communication.