Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Gov. Scott Walker today called for a big boost in education funding, $592 million in tax and fee cuts, and a series of conservative priorities as part of a budget he said was the result of “common sense reforms” and “wise fiscal management.”

Some GOP lawmakers have already expressed reservations about the $649 million Walker wants to pump into K-12 education and his $140 million plan for the UW System, which includes cutting tuition 5 percent for in-state undergrads in the 2018-19 school year.

Still, Walker’s budget includes several provisions likely to please conservative members of his own party, including:

*The full elimination of the prevailing wage on public projects. Republicans last session eliminated the requirement, which establishes minimum wages and benefits on public work, for local projects. The budget would extend that to state work.

*Prohibiting local governments from requiring project labor agreements on public projects. The agreements lay out standards such as wages, benefits and safety guidelines. Republicans are now pushing a bill through the Legislature that’s similar to the budget provision.

*A proposal dubbed the “REINS Act” that seeks to require any agency rule that costs more than costs businesses more than $10 million in compliance or other costs to first be approved by the Legislature. The proposal to overhaul the legislative rules process bogged down last session as some lawmakers questioned if they would cede authority to bureaucrats under the legislation.

The guv also is seeking a new round of tax and fee cuts, much of it a $204 million income tax reduction that would benefit those now in the lowest two brackets. The plan would reduce the current brackets of 4.6 percent and 6.15 percent to 3.9 percent and 5.74 percent, respectively. He also would expand the second bracket, which now covers those making up to $29,960 to $37,450.

The overall package also includes things such as: the $35 million Walker wants to reduce UW System tuition for in-state undergrads in the second year of the budget;  putting $87 million more into the school levy credit; and $73 million Walker wants to put into the general school aid formula. That second pot of money would largely go to drive down how much public schools can collect in property taxes.

Walker also is calling for an expansion in the earned income tax credit, which would cost $20 million.

The guv’s plan also calls for moving to a self-insurance model for state employees. Some lawmakers have already raised concerns about the proposal, warning it could drive up costs in the private sector by pulling out thousands of state employees.

Walker’s budget assumes $60 million in savings from the move if it started in 2018, meaning legislators would have to make up that money elsewhere if they wanted to eliminate the provision. But the guv added a twist that would make changing the proposal difficult: The $60 million in savings would go to help pay for the increase in per-pupil aid, meaning the Legislature would be pulling money out of schools by eliminating the provision unless they replace that money by cutting elsewhere.

One of the centerpieces of Walker’s plan is his call to pump $649 million into K-12 education, including $509.2 million to payments K-12 schools would receive based on the number of students enrolled. But that money would come with a hitch — districts would have to certify to the state they are in compliance with Act 10, which bans collective bargaining with most public employees.

Walker would pay for it all through a combination of revenue growth, a $453 million gross balance at the end of this budget and a steadily improving picture for the state’s Medicaid program. In September, the Department of Health Services had expected an additional $452 million in GPR in 2017-19 to cover Medicaid expenses. It now only projects needing another $279.4 million.

Overall, Walker is calling for the state to increase general fund spending by $452 million.

See more details, including reaction, in the Budget Blog:

The speech is being livestreamed here:
It also is being carried by WisconsinEye and livestreamed by Wisconsin Public TV at:

See more in today’s PM Update and in the Budget Blog.


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