Newsmakers, February 12, 2015

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Heard On Newsmakers

Reaction to 2015-2017 Wisconsin Budget Proposal

Featured in this Show

  • Local Lawmakers Talk Proposed 2015-2017 State Budget Part 1

    Two La Crosse state lawmakers say they are concerned about how the budget proposed by Gov. Scott Walker would impact public K-12 education in the state.

    Public schools in Wisconsin would lose $127 million dollars in state aid in the 2015-2016 year under the governor’s plan. That state aid would be restored in the second year of the budget, but over the next two years, spending per pupil would go down about $135.

    The governor has proposed putting money into public education that would be used for $5 per family in property tax relief in each of the next two years, but wouldn’t go into the classroom.

    State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) says the governor’s budget is built for times of recession.

    “We look at Minnesota, across the river, they are investing in schools, they have a better job climate, their family wages are higher than those in Wisconsin,” she said. “It’s not just Democrats who are talking about this, Republicans are uncomfortable with where this is going with our public schools.”

    The budget also lifts the caps on the school choice program, and for the first time would allow any student from a public school to transfer to a school voucher program school, and have taxpayer dollars follow the student to pay for it.

    State Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) says expanding Wisconsin’s private voucher plan will have a negative financial impact on public schools.

    “They still have to keep buildings open, they still have to have classrooms,” she said. “Losing those students does have an extra impact on the public school.”

    While about 75 percent of the students in the last private voucher expansion had previously been students in private schools, the new requirements will only affect students in low income families that make 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

    There are no estimates about how many public school students could transfer to private voucher schools.

  • Local Lawmakers Talk Proposed 2015-2017 State Budget Part 2

    The state of Wisconsin could stop buying land and protecting it from future development, something one La Crosse legislator calls a ‘big mistake.’

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal would prevent the state from buying land for 13 years through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

    The budget proposal places a moratorium on land purchases until debt service payments drop to $1 for every $8 spent on land since the Stewardship Program began in 1989. Projections anticipate that won’t happen until 2028. The governor’s office says 70 percent of the Department of Natural Resources budget from state tax dollars is paying for debt service from the program.

    In the La Crosse area, Stewardship has helped protect blufflands, and paid for boat landing repairs and developing existing state property.

    “So many of us appreciate our bluffland, that has been set aside with efforts that started 100 years ago,” said state Rep. Jill Billings. (D-La Crosse) “It’s huge for our tourism industry. I think people understand the value of preserving those public lands, because once they are developed, it’s next to impossible to bring them back.

    While the Stewardship Program will technically still exist, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) says the budget proposal essentially ends the program.

    “I don’t think Gov. Walker will be our governor in 13 years,” she said. “It’s a head scratcher how we can put that into statute so many years forward, because in two or four years, we (the legislature) could certainly change that language.

    The budget plan would also make citizen boards for the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection advisory. Rep. Billings says that’s a clear power grab by the governor’s office, and would jeopardize a long history of citizen involvement in Wisconsin.

Episode Credits

  • Maureen McCollum Host
  • John Davis Producer
  • Jill Billings Guest
  • Jennifer Shilling Guest
  • Joe Heim Guest