In the last four months, Gov. Scott Walker has launched an unprecedented attack on Wisconsin’s families, freedom, environment and future. Now Walker’s wasteland budget slashes money for seniors to get medicine, children to get an education, local government to keep us safe, and the state to protect our environment.
Even in difficult financial times, a budget establishes priorities and is the closest thing we have to a blueprint for building our state. How will we meet our long-term needs and educate our children for the jobs of tomorrow? How can we best take care of our most vulnerable citizens? How do we keep our communities safe and protect our environment?
We know Wisconsin faces financial challenges, and it’s true that Wisconsin and 48 other states have been challenged by revenue shortfalls caused by the global economic recession. We expected to see substantial spending cuts, but it’s shocking to see Walker’s budget change the state’s priorities in ways that hurt our families and undermine our quality of life.
We recently learned that the state will receive an additional $636 million in revenue. Walker refuses to use these millions to stop the cuts to programs that help our children and parents.
Worldwide economic competition makes educating our kids and training our workers more important than ever. Wisconsin’s public education system has always been the pride of our state and its quality is reflected in our workforce today. Walker cuts $1.68 billion in public K-12 schools while increasing funding for vouchers, which have not proven to be effective.
Employers throughout our state stress the importance of skilled workers and our technical college system to prepare our workforce for complex, technical and constantly evolving jobs in high-end, 21st century manufacturing jobs. Schools like Madison Area Technical College do a great job, yet Walker’s budget cuts technical college funding by 30 percent, an especially high percentage.
The Walker wasteland budget also pulls a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor by cutting the earned income and the homestead tax credits.
Meanwhile, large multinational corporations are given tax breaks of $46.8 million with the re-opening of a loophole that allows them to avoid paying state taxes. Most corporations don’t pay any state taxes. This comes on top of $142 million in ineffective tax giveaways that the GOP-controlled Legislature passed earlier this year for industries like big oil and corporations like Walmart.
Wisconsin has always taken care of our most vulnerable citizens with bipartisan support for health care programs like SeniorCare, BadgerCare and Family Care. The Walker wasteland budget partially eliminates them or creates long waiting lists. These reductions come just months after the governor pushed for health savings account giveaways for the 1.6 percent of Wisconsin citizens who have HSAs, at a cost of nearly $50 million.
The Walker budget also threatens our clean air and water. Wisconsin has always made protecting its land and resources a priority, but the governor’s changes to the environmental Stewardship program mean municipalities will have to pay more for clean water and may no longer be able to acquire land for parks and critical habitat. The budget also delays efforts to clean up our rivers and lakes and takes away money that makes our recycling program one of the best in the nation. It shifts public transportation priorities to build more highways, meaning more cars and pollution and fewer transportation options.
Wisconsinites understand that balancing the state budget requires sacrifices, but Wisconsin has always been a state that took care of its most vulnerable and invested in the future. Walker’s wasteland budget dramatically shifts our state’s priorities away from these values. We hope our colleagues in the Senate and Assembly will reconsider this shift to avoid serious consequences for Wisconsin.
Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, is ranking minority member of the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee. Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, D-Madison, is the Assembly Democratic Caucus chair. Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, is a member of the Natural Resources, Transportation, and Energy and Utilities committees.