by Pat Veeser, published in Opinion section of Door County Advocate, 24 May 2013
Rather than a budget that reflects shared Wisconsin values, Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2013-15 state budget makes many wrong choices, supporting special interests rather than Wisconsin’s needs. Some of the poorest choices reflected in the budget are discussed below.
• The budget rejects $4.4 billion from the federal government to expand BadgerCare, insuring up to 175,000 Wisconsin citizens, eliminating waiting lists for coverage and creating 10,500 Wisconsin jobs.
The governor’s plan costs $100 million more in the next budget, insures fewer people, and raises taxes on Wisconsin’s large employers by up to $3,000 per employee receiving subsidized coverage through the federally required health-care exchange. Some 87,000 parents will no longer be eligible for BadgerCare and will be subject to co-pay and deductible costs up to $4,000 per family.
• After cutting funding for public schools by $1.6 billion in the 2011-13 budget, the governor gave a $0 increase to Wisconsin public schools in the current budget, but increased taxpayer funding for private-voucher schools by up to $1,414 per pupil, a total of $73 million.
Voucher schools are not required to be accountable or meet standards for teachers or performance. In fact, recent testing demonstrates that voucher-supported students perform less well in key academic areas than their public-school counterparts.
• The budget adds an additional $8 million to the governor’s creation, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC), a private-public job-creation incubator, that replaced the Commerce Department.
The Legislative Audit Bureau, responsible for monitoring the agency, found that WEDC had made illegal loans, could not account for $50 million in loans, including $12 million in overdue loans, used taxpayer funds to buy alcohol and sporting events tickets, and engaged in other inappropriate activity.
The sad result of this mismanagement is evident in Wisconsin’s short-term job growth being in last place in the nation, and wages falling to 45th nationally. The governor’s office rationalized that this may be “beneficial” if it makes Wisconsin workers price-competitive.
• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federally financed block grant program to assist our most economically fragile children and families in meeting basic needs. The governor’s budget has siphoned off TANF funds for child care, to replace state funds for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The result: This subterfuge takes money away from assistance for child care that enables our poorest citizens to hold down a job, and frees up general purpose funds for other discretionary uses, such as the “tax cut” (see below).
• The governor’s budget includes an income tax cut that would reduce state revenue by $343 million over two years. According to the Legislative Audit Bureau, nearly half the benefit of the tax cut would go to the top 14 percent of tax filers. Most people earning $30,000 or less would receive no benefit.
Let us hope that the Joint Finance Committee of the Legislature will correct these and other regressive budgetary provisions.