Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unveiled a two-year state spending plan on Wednesday night, which he said will include a middle class income tax cut totaling $343 million, and a controversial expansion of school choice.
“One of the best ways to grow our economy is to put more money back into the hands of the people and small businesses of the state,” the Republican governor said in his budget address. “You, the hardworking taxpayers of this state helped create the budget surplus, so it is only right that we put more money back into your hands.”
Walker said the cut will lower-income taxes by $1.7 billion over the next decade. He described the cut as a “down payment” towards a goal of further tax reductions. “I want to cut taxes over and over and over again until we are leading the country in economic development,” he said, adding that his budget proposal includes more than $630 million in tax cuts.
Walker also promised that his biennial spending plan will hold the line on property taxes, and does not include any increase in the gasoline tax or vehicle registration fees. “Higher taxes would slow our growing economy,” the governor said.
According to Walker, a family of four with both parents earning about $40,000 would save $272 from the budget’s income and property tax relief, and would save more than $1000 in income taxes over the coming decade.
“Our tough, but prudent, decisions two years ago put us in a position to further reduce the tax burden on our citizens, while still investing in our priorities” said Walker. “Compare that to the tax increases enacted and proposed in our neighboring states.”
Walker’s spending plan does include a structural deficit of $188.2 million by Fiscal Year 2015, but staffers said that doesn’t include new revenues.
Walker announced on Tuesday that the state budget will include money to help new businesses get off the ground. The plan calls for setting aside $25 million to help create a state-backed venture capital fund.
“I put the money in the budget,” the governor said. “Now, I ask the members of the legislature to work together to help pass a bill on the framework for the program, prior to the passage of the budget.”
Walker’s budget plan includes $100 million in new state support for workforce development. “As we work to create more jobs, we need people with the skills to fill the jobs,” he said. “We understand the state able to fix the jobs skill gap is the state that will lead the country in economic development.”
The budget proposal also includes a $6.4 billion investment in Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure. “A good transportation system is good for jobs,” he said.
Walker focused on education in his budget address, and said his budget includes $475 million in new state funding for schools and higher education. He cited a number of high performing schools in the state. “As of the most recent report card, 709 schools in this state exceed or significantly exceed expectations,” he said.
Walker said such high performing schools will be eligible for performance incentives in the budget. Under the state’s current report cards, he said schools would get an average of $30,000.
“For communities where some schools fail to meet expectations, if they continue down that same path,” said Walker. “We should demand a corrective action plan to fundamentally improve the education of our students.”
Walker wants to expand the Milwaukee school choice program to other districts in the state, including Green Bay, Madison, and Superior. “In the end, our goal is simple: ensure every child — regardless of where they are from or what their family income is — has access to a great education,” he said.
The school choice expansion plan has already been criticized by state schools Superintendent Tony Evers and superintendents in the targeted districts.
Walker also outlined plans to reform state government and entitlements. “Our budget is built on a plan to reform a broken system and transition people from government dependence to true independence,” he said.