FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 24, 2013

CONTACT: Representative Smith 608-266-2519

SHORTFALLS OF THE BIENNIAL BUDGET
I am deeply concerned that the 2013-2015 budget is not in the interest of the citizens of Wisconsin. The budget will take a significant surplus and turn it into a structural deficit by providing tax breaks for the wealthy, a type of trickle-down economics that has time and again proven ineffective. Despite efforts to prevent all-night sessions where rash decisions are made on little sleep, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, (JFC), worked through dawn over the final days of their sessions. Items such as expanding school voucher programs statewide and rejecting federal aid to expand healthcare all passed. I feel that none of these things will help bolster Wisconsin’s struggling economy. From the budget’s conception to the Assembly’s fiscal session, the minority party suggested several straightforward solutions to make the budget better for the middle-class, including tax reform, public education funding and acceptance of federal funds for healthcare. During this four-month-long process, the majority party has rejected these solutions and explicitly refused to accept any of the minority party’s 200 plus amendments to improve this budget. I am concerned that the majority party and the governor are preoccupied with partisan politics and special interest favors rather than working together for a better Wisconsin. Additionally, this budget will eliminate healthcare coverage for approximately 100,000 residents covered by Badger Care. It would also end up costing an estimated $100 million more over the next two years than fully implementing the Affordable Care Act. We cannot afford to refuse federal money to provide more Wisconsinites with health care. Wisconsin’s citizens have helped to pay for the federal dollars through their own income taxes; it is a disservice to them to send their hard-earned dollars to other states instead of bringing it home to Wisconsin. Furthermore, in the next two years, the voucher program funded by taxpayer dollars will be expanded statewide. There will be a 29 percent spending increase on choice schools, while only a one percent increase for public schools. I am discouraged by these educational priorities, as vouchers would drain funding from public education, allowing tax breaks for the wealthy families that send their kids to these schools. This is a poorly disguised attempt to privatize the education system of Wisconsin, and will create a serious discrepancy between the wealthy, middle and lower classes in terms of educational opportunity. During a time of global competition, we need to strengthen our public education system, not dull it down. A typical homeowner's property taxes are expected to rise by one percent, or twenty-nine dollars, over the next two years, while total income taxes will be cut by $650 million. Because of these income tax cuts, the state's 2015-2017 budget is projected to face a half-billion-dollar shortfall. It is a mistake to put the people of Wisconsin’s money at risk and hope to see economic growth despite the signs pointing towards the opposite.

This budget will not spark the rejuvenation of Wisconsin’s economy, education system, or healthcare system. Wisconsin is ranked 49th out of the 50 states for economic outlook, and is only one of five states projected to experience an economic decline over the next six months. Frankly, this is unacceptable. We should be striving for the top ten. I believe the budget would prove both short-sighted and counter-productive, leaving the state’s 2015-2017 budget with a projected half-billion dollar shortcoming. The budget has passed through the JFC, the Assembly, and the Senate and is now waiting for the Governor to sign it into law. For my first time in legislature, I am disappointed by how the State Capitol has been painted by the divides of blue and red and how special interest groups have become the voices inside the Assembly Chambers. I was brought here to work across the aisle. We can do better. Wisconsin can do better.

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