The damaging budget cuts proposed by Governor Walker have very little support among Wisconsin residents, a new poll from Marquette University shows.
People in Wisconsin are particularly opposed to cutting resources for students in public schools. According to the poll:
- Nearly 8 out of 10 Wisconsin residents oppose the $127 million budget cut Governor Walker has proposed for Wisconsin public schools. This cut would come on top of already dramatic reductions in resources for public schools that have already occurred.
- Most people oppose removing the cap on the number of students that can attend private school on publicly-funded tuition vouchers. The expansion of the voucher program would reduce resources available for students that remain in the public schools and increase state spending on vouchers by $17 million over two years.
- Most people think it is more important for Wisconsin to increase resources for public schools than it is to reduce property taxes.
Finance Committee Shows Its Independence but only Removes 14 of the 49 Non-fiscal Measures from Budget
As the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) took its first votes on the budget bill last week, there were some encouraging signs, as well as some disappointing developments.
The most encouraging thing was simply that the committee showed a willingness to think independently and not rubber stamp everything proposed by the Governor. In light of the large number of controversial fiscal and policy changes in the budget, I’m relieved that the early indications are that the JFC members in both parties are willing to exercise their own judgment about the Governor’s proposals.
More specifically, I was very happy to see the committee vote to preserve several independent government entities that help make or influence policy and that the budget bill proposed to eliminate. A theme in this budget that has gotten relatively little attention is that the Governor has recommended abolishing or weakening numerous independent boards or advisory councils, thereby weakening the role of stakeholders and ordinary citizens in guiding the administration of state programs. Read more
Legislators Can Avoid Deep Cuts without Raising Taxes
Wisconsin needs a budget that invests in the building blocks of a strong economy. Healthy families, safe and stable communities, and a well-educated workforce are assets critical to helping Wisconsin remain an attractive place to live, raise families, and do business. By strengthening these resources, the state budget can lay the groundwork for broad-based prosperity and an economy that works for everyone.
Unfortunately, the budget proposed by the Governor makes deep and unnecessary cuts to investments vital to Wisconsin’s long-term economic success. For example, the proposed budget would reduce resources for public education – a cut that would come on top of dramatic reductions in resources that have already occurred. The budget would also make deep cuts in state support for the University of Wisconsin System, giving a tremendous blow to one of the engines of Wisconsin’s long-term prosperity. The proposed budget would also make it harder for people with disabilities to get the help they need to contribute to their communities. Read more
Both Governor Walker and state lawmakers have indicated they want to use public money to help build a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, but they have different ideas on how to go about it. At this point, the plan put forth by lawmakers is the “least worst” of the options, but we should also be asking whether the state should be subsidizing a new arena when it is reducing resources for schools and higher education.
In his budget proposal, Governor Walker recommended that the state borrow $220 million and dedicate that money to building a new arena. Governor Walker’s proposal didn’t set a specific timetable for repaying the bonds, so the total cost to repay the borrowing was unclear. The total cost for the proposal could have could have been as much as $488 million over 20 years or as little as $324 million, under three different repayment scenarios modeled by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Read more
The Governor’s proposed budget includes dozens of policy items that don’t directly affect the state’s finances, according to a new memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Including these items in the budget reduces opportunities for public input and makes it easier for lawmakers to make changes without a full debate about the positive or negative effects of those measures.
The budget bill is the one piece of legislation that lawmakers must pass. So whenever a budget bill is under consideration, lawmakers succumb to the temptation to load it up with a variety of unrelated policy measures. The sheer enormity of the budget bill, which runs to nearly 2,000 pages, makes it easy for lawmakers to slip in non-fiscal measures. And given that the budget includes blueprints for how the state will spend several billion dollars of public resources over the next two years, it’s hard for citizens and advocacy organizations to spend time discussing the implications of the much smaller policy measures slipped into the budget. Read more
Cost Growth Underscores the Value of Accepting Federal Funds for BadgerCare Expansion
The latest quarterly report on the state Medicaid budget, issued this week by the Department of Health Services (DHS), reinforces our concerns about the choice of Wisconsin lawmakers to spend substantially more for BadgerCare and insure far fewer people than if the state expanded eligibility to cover additional low-income adults.
The new report reveals a $24.8 million net increase in projected Medicaid and BadgerCare spending in the current fiscal year, relative to what DHS estimated just three months ago. Despite that increase in program costs, the department says the Medicaid budget remains in balance because they plan to more than double the amount of drug settlement funds allocated for the Medicaid budget. (That funding comes from payments by manufacturers to settle lawsuits alleging they improperly charged for medications used by Medicaid recipients.)
The jump in Wisconsin’s Medicaid costs does not come as a big surprise – considering the rapid growth in BadgerCare enrollment of childless adults, which is now almost 60% above the level that DHS originally expected it to reach at the end of the current fiscal year. Read more
A proposed property tax cut for businesses would raise taxes for homeowners and other owners of residential property, who are already paying a much larger share of total property taxes than in past decades.
Lawmakers have proposed eliminating the business personal property tax, which is one component of the property tax. Most personal property is exempt from the property tax, but owners of property used for commercial and manufacturing purposes pay a small amount of personal property tax on items like equipment, machinery, fixtures, and boats. The total statewide personal property tax levy in 2013 was $270 million, or 3% of the total property tax levy.
Eliminating the business personal property tax wouldn’t change the total amount of property tax collected by local governments, but it would change who pays property taxes. Cutting taxes for businesses would shift more of the responsibility for paying property taxes onto the shoulders of homeowners, and would increase property taxes by $80 on a typical home. Read more
Property Tax Cut Contributing to Deep Budget Cuts Benefits Second Home Owners and Profitable Corporations, Among Others
The budget proposed by Governor Walker includes significant new tax cuts, as well as deep cuts to the University System and public schools to pay for the proposed tax cuts and ones in the past. A new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project describes how one of the new tax cuts would do little to lower property taxes for Wisconsin homeowners on their primary residences.
In the budget, Governor Walker has proposed a $211 million increase over two years for a property tax credit called the School Levy Credit. But the way the credit is structured means that an estimated $103 million, or 49% of the proposed increase, would go towards boosting the bottom line of businesses and corporations, reducing property taxes for owners of second homes, cutting taxes for people who live outside of Wisconsin, and other purposes that wouldn’t do much to lower property taxes for Wisconsin homeowners.
If lawmakers want to cut property taxes, there’s a much better way of doing it that provides targeted relief to people with high property taxes relative to their incomes. Read more
Number of Childless Adults in BadgerCare Jumps by More than 7,000 in February
The latest open enrollment period for the federal insurance Marketplace caused tens of thousands of Wisconsinites to apply for health insurance – sharply increasing the number of people signing up for subsidized plans and also causing a big jump in BadgerCare enrollment. Those trends are a major success story for the Affordable Care Act, but they pose a challenge for state lawmakers.
The number of childless adults in BadgerCare has jumped by more than 10% since December, which significantly increases the program’s cost. However, that unanticipated surge in enrollment also substantially increases the amount the state could save if state lawmakers accept the federal funding that would pay almost all of the cost of covering childless adults. Read more