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State Republican Leaders Clash Over New K-12 Education Spending Plan

Assembly GOP Education Plan Sees Early Opposition From Senate, Governor

Kids in a classroom
Tom Woodward (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Republicans at the state Capitol clashed again Tuesday, this time over Wisconsin’s budget for schools.

Assembly Republicans unveiled their proposal for K-12 education funding in the next state budget Tuesday afternoon, calling for less overall spending than Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal.

The plan includes a smaller increase in per pupil spending than the governor’s budget, but Assembly Republicans argue it would send more money to classrooms by diverting state funds from property tax relief and lifting property tax levy limits for districts across the state.

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Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chair of the budget committee, speaks at a press conference Tuesday at the Capitol. Laurel White/WPR

“Levy limits, while useful, have left frugal school districts locked into spending limits first established in 1993 that have not kept pace with the cost of education,” said Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chair of the budget committee.

But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, was quick to quash the plan.

“We will continue to look for ways to support low spending districts, but a proposal that raises property taxes, and picks winners and losers within our school districts is a move away from the position of both the governor and the Senate Republican caucus,” Fitzgerald said in a statement. “The Assembly package that was endorsed today is simply not the direction that this budget is headed.”

After the Assembly press conference, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, pushed back on Fitzgerald’s comments.

“I think it’s unfortunate that at 12:25 (p.m.), five minutes before our press conference, Sen. Fitzgerald put out a statement before he even heard what our plan really was, or the comments about it, that he said immediately he’s just going to be a rubber stamp for Gov. Walker,” Vos said. “I don’t get why we would say we don’t want to improve his plan.”

Walker said Monday he had “big concerns” with an earlier draft of the Assembly GOP plan, and that his office is looking at ways to partially veto a budget that increases taxes on Wisconsin residents. Walker has said he wants property taxes to be below 2014 levels in the final 2017-2019 budget.

The budget is scheduled to be complete by June 30.

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