Walker vetoes budget item to help for low-revenue schools
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday vetoed 99 parts of the state budget, including a provision supported by Republican legislative leaders and educators that would have allowed low-spending school districts to raise more money from property taxes.
Walker released the vetoes a day before he planned to sign the budget into law at an elementary school in Neenah. The vetoes touched on nearly all parts of the massive $76 billion budget and resulted in trimming spending by $16.5 million over the next two years.
Walker said he vetoed that low-revenue schools provision because it would have resulted in schools being able to levy more in property taxes without voter input. He later defended the move on Twitter, saying the veto protects taxpayers.
The budget as it passed the Legislature increased the maximum that low-spending districts can spend from a combination of local property taxes and state aid per student from $9,100 to $9,300 this year and $9,400 the next.
The increased spending would have been paid for with a mixture of state aid and higher local property taxes. It was designed to address long-held complaints from mostly rural school districts.
The change was championed by public school advocates and the Republican co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, Rep. John Nygren, of Marinette. Nygren said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon that he was disappointed Walker chose to veto the low-revenue schools provision, saying it would hurt more than 200 districts across the state.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said it was disappointing that Walker’s veto would cut school funding while a tax change primarily benefiting wealthy people remains.
“These vetoes demonstrate why Wisconsin residents feel like they’re being left behind by a Republican Party that continues to favor the wealthy over working families,” she said.
Before Walker issued the vetoes, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said it was “way too early” to know if lawmakers would try to override any of them. The Republican-controlled Legislature has never voted to override a Walker veto.
Walker also vetoed a provision that would have required sexually violent offenders to be placed in their home counties after their release, saying the change needed more vetting by the Legislature and the public. The change would have also allowed offenders to be placed near schools, parks or day care centers.
He did not veto $4 million to pay for improvements to deal with increased air traffic at the Wisconsin Rapids airport caused by the opening of the nearby Sand Valley Golf Resort. The funding was added by lawmakers and was not part of Walker’s original budget recommendation. The golf course was developed by mega-GOP donor Mike Keiser, who donated $25,000 to the state Republican Party three weeks after Walker released his budget without the airport money.
Walker followed through on a series of vetoes he promised to three Republican senators to secure the passage of the budget. The biggest would immediately repeal the requirement that construction workers on state jobs be paid a prevailing wage, instead of having it take effect in a year.
He also cut $2.5 million to study interstate tolling, although that could still be pursued, and he also did away with changes that would have eliminated local control of rock quarries. He said changes that significant should be pursued with separate legislation.
The budget passed the Republican-controlled Legislature on Friday, 11-weeks after the July 1 due date. Spending continued at pre-deadline levels during the impasse. The Sept. 21 signature by Walker will make it the latest budget since 2007 when the Legislature was under split control. That year then-Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle signed it on Oct. 26.
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