This is your chance, Wisconsin taxpayer, to cut the 2012 state budget to fix the deficit.
To answer, you need to know what are the most expensive programs. Once you know that, you can set your own priorities. Is aid to public schools more important than health care spending, for example, or aid to local governments?
On Tuesday, you can see how your cuts compare to those that Republican Gov. Scott Walker will recommend.
So, let’s start – and your budget cuts should total $1.3 billion. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the most state tax funds (not including federal and other funds) are spent on these programs.
No. 1: Aid to public schools: $5.3 billion in direct aid and $6.2 billion if you count tax credits paid property owners to hold down property taxes. Hint: Tuesday, Walker is expected to recommend a $450 million cut in aid to public schools next year. The governor signaled the size of this cut when he said that weakening collective bargaining laws for public employees would allow school districts to save even more – about $488 million – than the cut.
No. 2: Medicaid health care programs that now care for one in five Wisconsin residents: $1.55 billion from state taxes, although federal funds push the annual cost of this program to more than $6 billion. Hint: If you cut state tax funds for Medicaid, you will also be losing federal funds because about 60% of Medicaid funding comes from Washington. And if you cut state aid for Medicaid, you must also cut some care or pay less to medical professionals who provide that care, which could prompt them to no longer take Medicaid patients.