Tax cuts, building funding await as GOP wraps up budget
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republicans are nearly finished with reshaping the Wisconsin state budget to reflect their priorities and drop much of what Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed.
With the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee set to finish its work as soon as this week and send the budget to the full Legislature, here’s what is in, what is out and what is yet to be decided.
K-12 SCHOOLS: Schools would receive a $500 million spending boost over the next two years. That is less than the $639 million they got in the previous budget and a fraction of the $1.4 billion Evers wanted. Funding for special education would go up $50 million, 90% less than the $606 million Evers wanted.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: The UW System would get $58 million, $45 million of which would only be released after lawmakers approve of how the university intends to spend it. That’s far less than university officials expected after weeks of discussions with lawmakers, below the $60 million cost-to-continue and short of the $150 million Evers proposed. Republicans did agree with Evers’ call to continue the tuition freeze, already in its sixth year, for at least two more years.
ROADS: Republicans proposed spending $484 million on roads, less than the $624 million Evers wanted, paid for with a mixture of cash, borrowing and higher fees for titling and registering a car. The definition of hybrid car would also be reworked so a $75 fee, already in law, could be applied to them.
PAY INCREASES: State workers will see 2% annual pay increases each of the next two years, just as Evers proposed.
HEALTH CARE: Republicans approved a $77 million increase for the Wisconsin Shares program that provides money to working parents for child care, $30 million more for nursing homes, an additional $37 million for personal care workers and $27 million more for direct caregivers in the Family Care program.
MEDICAID EXPANSION: Republicans rejected Evers’ plan to expand Medicaid, a move that would have put an estimated 82,000 more people on the program, saved the state $324 million and leveraged $1.6 billion more in federal money. But Republicans said they didn’t want to put more people on public assistance. Expanding it would have also handed Evers a huge political win, delivering one of his central campaign promises on an issue that Democrats say propelled him to victory over Scott Walker.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: Evers wanted to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize small amounts of recreational pot, but Republicans snuffed it out.
VOUCHER SCHOOLS: Evers wanted to freeze enrollment in private voucher schools and block any new independent charter schools. Republicans love school choice, so they killed these proposals as soon as they could.
GAS TAX INCREASE: Evers wanted to raise it about a dime over the next two years as part of a long-term plan to pay for road construction and repair. Republicans said the 32.9-cent per-gallon gas tax is high enough already and killed the plan, opting instead for higher fees, cash and borrowing.
IMMIGRANTS: Proposals to allow immigrants living in the U.S. illegally to pay in-state tuition, and to get driver’s licenses, were spiked by Republicans.
REDISTRICTING: Evers called for creating a nonpartisan redistricting process for the next time the Legislature has to draw political boundary lines following the 2020 census. Republicans favor the current system, which they will control if they maintain the majority in the Legislature.
MINIMUM WAGE: Evers called for raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.50 by 2023 and tying subsequent increases to inflation. Republicans nixed it.
MANUFACTURING TAX CREDIT: Evers wanted to all but eliminate a tax credit for manufacturers that Republicans enacted under Walker and that they credit with spurring economic growth. Evers was counting on more than $516 million in savings from reducing the tax credit to pay for his income tax cut plan, but Republicans rejected his proposal.
WHAT’S TO COME:
TAX CUTS: Evers proposed a 10% middle class income tax cut, similar to one Republicans passed earlier this year and that Evers vetoed. The rub was over where the money was coming from to pay for it. Republicans are still talking about cutting taxes, but which ones and by how much remains to be seen.
BUILDING PROJECTS: Republicans punted in March on recommending which of the $2.5 billion in proposed building projects across the state should be funded, and by how much. That broke with precedent and leaves the budget committee with no recommendation as it figures out how much money there is to fund projects across the state, including $1.1 billion the University of Wisconsin wants.
STEWARDSHIP: Evers’ budget reauthorizes the state Department of Natural Resources stewardship program through mid-2022. The DNR uses stewardship funding to purchase land for the state and help conservation organizations purchase land. Republicans have criticized the program for running up too much debt and taking too much property off tax rolls.
E-CIGARETTES: Evers wants to impose a new tax on e-cigarettes and vaping products, higher than what is placed on traditional cigarettes and tobacco products. Republicans haven’t said what they plan to do.
LARGE ANIMAL FARMS: Republicans are considering moving regulation of Wisconsin’s largest animal feeding operations from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Evers opposes doing that, but some dairy and farm groups support moving regulation to the agriculture department. Evers is also seeking higher fees for concentrated animal feeding operations, known as CAFOs.
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