State views: Overall, budget keeps Wisconsin on right track
The state Assembly recently wrapped up the 2013-15 Budget Bill process. After Gov. Walker put forth his recommendations earlier this year, the Joint Finance Committee held hearings around the state and voted on modifications to the budget bill. The full Legislature took up the bill this week.
The budget bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that the Legislature votes on during the legislative session. The bill is more than 1,000 pages and contains many provisions; however, I only get one vote as your state representative. Although I do not agree with every item in the budget, I do feel that overall it does keep Wisconsin on the right track. Therefore, I voted in favor of the budget bill because I believe it has many positive provisions for residents of our area.
To begin with, the budget contains one of the largest tax cuts in state history. Specifically, income taxes will be cut by more than $650 million; all tax cuts contained in the budget total nearly $1 billion. These tax cuts were possible because of the budget reforms we enacted last legislative session, which resulted in a large surplus this fiscal year. Wisconsin has notoriously been categorized as one of the 10 most taxed states in the nation. It is my hope that by returning the surplus to taxpayers by enacting this historic tax cut, we can move our state out of the top 10 highest-taxed states.
In addition, I was encouraged to see the Joint Finance Committee's version of the budget reduce both overall general purpose revenue spending and borrowing by state government. The budget we passed also cut 730 government positions from the original proposal. I believe this budget continues our effort to force state government to tighten its belt and reduce the size of government.
As a product of our local public education system, I was encouraged to see an increase in K-12 education funding, ensuring that education remains the most funded program in the budget. At the same time, we were able to hold the line on property taxes.
Earlier in the budget process, the Legislature discovered that the UW System had been hiding hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus slush funds, despite multiple years of unnecessary tuition increases. I was encouraged to see the Legislature adopt a tuition freeze. This is reportedly the first complete tuition freeze in the UW System's 42-year history.
Overall, I believe this budget builds upon the reforms implemented in Gov. Walker's previous budget. I am especially supportive of the $650 million income tax cut and hope we can continue to reduce the size and scope of government by returning money to the taxpayers of our state.
Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, is serving his second term in the Wisconsin State Assembly. He serves the 32nd District and can be reached at 608-266-1190 or by email at Rep.August@legis.Wiscon-sin.gov.