After nearly five months of budget deliberations by the Legislature, Governor Walker recently signed the 2015-17 state budget into law. And let me tell you, as I observed first hand as the ranking Assembly Democrat on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), this budget is as much of a mess as when the Governor introduced it back in February. Although my Democratic colleagues and I tried to do everything we could to fix this budget, including proposing adequate funding for our K-12 public schools, restoring the proposed cuts to our stellar UW system, and maintaining critical scientists at the Department of Natural Resources and other environmental programs, our efforts were rebuffed.
Unfortunately for us all, Republicans passed one of the most destructive budgets in recent memory.
We’ve heard from Governor Walker and his allies that they’re reformers. But really, this budget is about destroying so many of the programs and investments that have made our state great. Budgets are all about choices — and the choices made by the GOP show whose side they are on, and it is not the side of the Wisconsin people.
In this budget, Republicans once again chose to not adequately fund public education. Instead, they prioritized siphoning off millions of dollars from our public schools to subsidize private school tuition and independent charter schools. All while giving more tax cuts to wealthy families while slashing our UW System by nearly $250 million — which we recently learned UW-Madison will be bearing the brunt of by nearly 50 percent.
In this budget, Republicans chose to denigrate our environment. They cut the Stewardship program by millions, fired scientists at the Bureau of Science Services, all while doing away with critical shoreland zoning protections that were created by individual communities after years of cooperation between stakeholders.
In this budget, Republicans chose to tinker with our nationally renowned model for long term care. Despite pleas from over a dozen advocacy groups who were collectively opposed to any changes to current law, Republicans moved ahead with their plans to dismantle our regional long term care system, including the popular IRIS which will create more uncertainty for families.
The commonality of these choices is clear = they do not help the people of this state. They destroyed well respected programs and traditions that Wisconsin is known for and that Wisconsinites love.
I will continue to fight for the Wisconsin that we can be. I do believe that on the horizon is change — and a return to a progressive policy tradition of creating opportunities for the people of our state.