JFC Republicans approve $25M tech college boost, Dems wanted more

Budget BLOG

The Joint Finance Committee approved a $25 million boost in state funding to the Wisconsin Technical College System — more than Gov. Tony Evers originally proposed, but less than he wanted after revenue projections climbed an additional $753 million.

The GOP motion to increase funding $25 million passed along party lines 11-4.

Evers’ original proposal called for an additional $18 million in general purpose revenue. But after the new revenue estimates came in Wednesday, Evers urged lawmakers to double the funding boost. That would have fully funded the tech colleges’ request for an additional $36 million over the budget.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, urged Republicans to embrace the $36 million boost, which was rejected along party lines. He pointed to Legislative Fiscal Bureau numbers that show state aid to tech colleges peaked at $119.3 million in 2010-11 before dropping to $83.5 million the following year and then bumping up to $88.5 million in 2014-15. It has remained flat since.

The system also relies on property taxes to fund operations.

Goyke argued the $36 million boost — “and not one penny less” — was needed for Republicans to prove their commitment to the tech colleges, which the GOP has identified as part of the state’s approach to worker training.

Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, countered Republicans provided tech colleges “flexibilities” to address state aid reductions, a reference to Act 10, which required most public employees to contribute more toward their health care and pension costs.

He said Evers “failed” to address workforce development adequately in his original budget and dismissed using the additional revenue now projected to come in to pay for spending. Much of that money is expected to be a one-time influx of cash as businesses adjust to the 2017 overhaul of the federal tax code.

Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, also knocked Dems’ proposal, saying Evers only wanted to invest another $36 million in the tech colleges after it became “convenient.” He also rejected Dems’ argument about how Republicans have approached government.

“Their code word for investing is spending beyond their means,” he said.