Gov. Walker pitches tax cuts, school vouchers in budget proposal
MADISON (WAOW) -
Gov. Scott Walker says he wants to cut taxes as part of his budget plan for the next two years.
He laid out his budget plan Wednesday night in front of state legislators in Madison. He says his budget will grow Wisconsin's economy.
"We're heading in the right direction. We're moving Wisconsin forward," said the governor.
To do that, Walker says the state needs to cut taxes. He proposed $630 million in tax cuts—$343 million as an income tax cut for the middle class.
"Our tough, but prudent decisions two years ago put us in a position to further reduce the tax burden of our citizens, while still investing in our priorities," said Walker.
The governor also proposed $100 million dollars for workforce development across a variety of programs.
"We understand the state which is able to fix the jobs skill gap is the state that will lead the country in economic development," said Walker. "We want Wisconsin to be that leader."
In addition to announcing investments in transportation, technology, and criminal justice, Gov. Walker spent time talking about education. He says his budget will put almost half a billion new dollars into education, but with some strings attached.
"For the first time, a significant portion of that is based on performance," he said.
The governor's budget would offer extra money for schools who perform well or improve dramatically. It would also expand the school voucher system.
Legislators from central Wisconsin had plenty to say about the governor's proposals, especially about taxes.
"A tax cut for the middle class, I think, is a great thing," said State Rep. John Spiros (R-Marshfield).
But others say they want to hear more specifics.
"I'm interested to see just how the governor defines the middle class," said State Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point). "The devil is always in the details."
Legislators are also reacting to the governor's plans for education. State Rep. Mandy Wright (D-Wausau) is a former teacher. She says Walker's ideas have a long way to go.
"There's actually a cap on spending per student, so although he's putting more funding towards public education, none of that will go directly to our students," said Wright.
There's also a lot of anger about the governor's plan to expand school vouchers.
"This takes money—taxpayer money—from Stevens Point and Wausau and ships it hundreds of miles to bigger cities for voucher private schools in those areas," said State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).
But Republicans say Walker's plans for education are on track.
"I think you always have to realize that this is just the initial proposal," said State Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon). "First this bill will go to joint finance, and joint finance will make some adjustments. Then it will go to the individual houses."
Both sides did find some agreement with Gov. Walker's plan to spend more money on workforce development, although they want to see more details.
"We need to be investing in the very foundation of that state's economy, and that's our workforce," said Lassa.
"Those are all important things and they'll help us drive the economy and get things rolling," added Petrowski.
Several local legislators say they plan to hold listening sessions in their districts in the next few weeks to get feedback on the new budget.