While majority Republicans in the state Legislature offered praise for much of Governor’s Scott Walker’s proposed state budget, many also said they do have concerns about some of the key initiatives he wants to pursue.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) stated that he does not think a proposed five percent cut in tuition for resident undergraduate students in the University of Wisconsin System, which would be paid for with state funds, is likely to survive the budget process. “I don’t think the tuition cut’s gonna happen,” Vos said. “Our tuition is already among the lowest in the Big Ten…I think we’ve done a good job with freezing tuition. But I certainly think it’s the more conservative thing to have folks pay for what they use, as opposed to asking all the people who never go to college to pay higher taxes to subsidize those who do.”
State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who co-chairs the Joint Finance Committee, said she also expects significant debate about the plan because of questions about how the state can sustain the funding needed to pay for the cut.
Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), who also co-chairs the panel, expressed reservations about the governor’s road funding proposal. “I would say there’s not a lot of leading going on in a long term solution for transportation…and that’s where I guess it comes to us to look for that solution,” he said.
Walker has been adamant about not raising taxes or fees to pay for infrastructure needs in the state, unless they are offset by a reduction in some other area. Nygren said it’s not clear whether the $572 million in tax reductions that governor proposed in his budget would fulfill that requirement. “Perhaps we look for further tax cuts…I wouldn’t say that’s completely off the table,” he said.
Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) questioned whether the per pupil spending increase Walker is proposing in his K-12 education proposal is sustainable either, and the likely effect reducing that would have on the tax cuts the governor wants. “I like the way the governor laid it out, it’s just I know the Legislature is probably gonna be all over the place when it comes to new revenue,” he said.
Lawmakers will now begin the lengthy process of reviewing Walker’s budget plan, with public hearings and revisions expected in the coming months.