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Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker is directing state agencies to assume they will receive no additional state funding in their next budgets, with exceptions for K-12 schools and some basic adjustments for programs like Medicaid. 

Walker sent the instructions to state agency heads late last week. 

"Wisconsin is positioned to win the 21st century," he wrote.

The letter includes a list of priorities for the next four years, should Walker win a third term in November, including making Wisconsin "one of the best states in America for millennials and for retirees," guaranteeing access to "safe and reliable transportation infrastructure," making high school graduation rates and workforce participation rates among the highest in the nation, making the state's health care system one of the country's best, significantly reducing opioid and illegal drug addiction and dramatically lowering taxes.

"All of this should be done while being good stewards of the taxpayers’ money," Walker wrote. "We will be aggressive in finding ways to identify savings to fund these priorities within the 2019-21 state budget."

In a corresponding memo, agencies are instructed to craft their budget requests assuming zero growth in state appropriations, with the exception of funding for K-12 schools, institutions operated by the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health Services, assistance programs such as Medicaid and some programs run by the Department of Children and Families and Department of Workforce Development. 

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"In developing their biennial budget requests, agencies should fundamentally review missions and priorities, exploring opportunities to reallocate resources, integrate programs and consolidate functions," the memo reads.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, criticized the directive, arguing the constraints imposed by a zero-growth budget are the results of the state's deal with electronics manufacturer Foxconn. 

Foxconn has promised to invest $10 billion to build an LCD panel manufacturing plant in southeastern Wisconsin that will create between 3,000 and 13,000 jobs. In exchange, the state will offer about $3 billion in refundable tax credits — the largest subsidy to a foreign company in U.S. history — delivered on a "pay as you grow" basis tied to job creation and capital investment benchmarks.

“The public should be asking why Gov. Walker has wasted the third longest period of national economic growth and is now stuck with zero-growth budgets as other states have experienced increasing opportunity and prosperity," Hintz said in a statement.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.