MADISON, Wis.—Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget bill went into effect July 1 at the beginning of the new fiscal year. Walker has called on the state to make drastic cuts. The budget would reduce government spending by $4.2 billion.
Walker stated, “Our budget reduces the structural deficit by 90 percent. In fact, it is lower than the last eight budgets presented by Democrats and Republicans alike.”
On March 1 Walker addressed the assembly and said, ”This is a reform budget.” The budget aims at reducing the $3.6 billion deficit the state has incurred.
Cuts in Education
Among the cuts, the budget reduces $834 million in school funding over the next two years. Anne Murphy Lom, department administrator at University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) said, “Cuts will be made across the board, schools, and teachers, major cuts to schools.”
The higher education system will see a reduction of over $250 million in the budget to University of Wisconsin System institutions and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“Overall savings for schools across the state will outweigh reductions, ultimately allowing schools to put more money in the classroom,” Walker noted in his budget address.
Republican Rep. Jim Steineke, who represents Kaukauna, has an optimistic view of the budget bill. Under the collective bargaining agreements in the past, the teachers union gave only one option for health coverage.
After Walker’s repeal of collective bargaining rights, Steineke said the school district could now save money on health insurance by shopping around. “With these changes, the schools could go out for bids.” Steineke said Kaukauna is saving substantial amounts of money on insurance.
The Kaukauna School District expects to have smaller class sizes due to teachers working longer hours in schools after the repeal of the collective bargaining rights. He said that teachers previously only had to be in school for 37.5 hours per week.
Reductions for Public Services
Funding for local recycling was cut by 40 percent. Walker proposed lifting the mandate on state recycling programs. The Legislature turned down the effort. Clean Wisconsin stated, “Communities are making cuts to their services, or charging fees to make up for the lost revenue.”
More waste will enter privatized landfills, relieving the state of the bill.
Family Planning centers under the new budget bill will see drastic cuts in funding. BadgerCare, the state funded family planning program will lose most of its funding. The cuts may end BadgerCare altogether.
Public institutions across the board are adjusting to the new budget. Walker sternly pushed his bill forward, despite record numbers of protesters who continue to appeal at the Capitol.
Walker gave a statement, saying, “I believe that after our budget repair bill passes, tempers will cool, and we will find a way to continue to work together to help grow our economy.”
The budget bill was released in full on the Wisconsin State government website.