July 7, 2005

Assembly Approves Revised Budget

The Assembly signed off Tuesday on changes the Senate made to the state budget to create a tax credit for those who adopt, force some state employees to pay into retirement funds and cut $1 million from UW-Madison.

The 52-43 vote added those changes to a $52.9 billion budget that also would phase out the state's tax on Social Security benefits, cut the gas tax by a penny and restrict property tax increases over the next three years.

Wisconsin State Journal
Wednesday, July 6, 2005
JR Ross Associated Press

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, dismissed the Senate changes as a "bar-time amendment" concocted by majority Republicans in the middle of the night last week to "purchase" the final two votes needed as that chamber approved the budget, 17-16.

He chided the Assembly for going along with the changes, saying they would hurt the public, state employees and Wisconsin troops.

Assembly Speaker John Gard, R-Peshtigo, professed no love for the Senate changes, either, dismissing them as gimmicks crafted to appease two Republican senators. But he said the heart of the GOP-crafted budget -- property tax limits and cuts to the taxes on Social Security benefits and gas -- remained intact and that outweighed the negatives.

"I believe the heart and soul of this budget is intact," Gard said.

The budget now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, who can approve it, veto portions of it or reject the entire document.

The state faces a $1.6 billion shortfall for the two-year period through June 30, 2007. The budget would fix that shortfall through a series of spending cuts, accounting moves and fee increases.

Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, and the Assembly backed a different version of the budget last month. But the Senate made several changes last week to get the 17 votes needed for passage. The GOP controls the chamber 19-14; two Republicans voted against the budget while two others refused to back it without the changes.

The changes inserted by the Senate include a tax credit for parents who adopt a child, which would eventually cost the state $7.5 million a year; requiring nonunion state employees to contribute the first 1.5 percent paid toward their retirements, costing about 30,000 employees $42.2 million over the next two years; and an additional $100 million reduction in the budgets of state agencies over the next two years.

Agencies would be able to apply to get $96 million of that money back if the Legislature's budget committee approved the request.

Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, called the cut to agencies particularly repugnant because it would mean a $303,900 reduction to the Department of Military Affairs that oversees the Wisconsin National Guard.

Schneider called Republicans hypocrites for putting slogans and banners in the windows of their cars supporting U.S. troops while they are at war, and then voting to cut their funding.

"This is one hell of a way to support our troops, isn't it? You ought to be ashamed," Schneider said.

Republicans countered the money was not a cut because the Department of Military Affairs could still apply to have it reinstated. Assembly Assistant Majority Leader Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, noted the overall budget for Military Affairs would increase by $26 million over the next two years to $143 million, even with the $303,900 that would be held back.

"The fact is that this body recognizes the importance of our veterans and our military personnel and has given them an increase that rivals anything else that we've done in this budget," Huebsch said.

Other provisions inserted into the budget by the Senate include:

* The restoration of $7.3 million in sales tax revenue retailers receive for processing paperwork related to reporting sales tax revenues. The Legislature's budget committee had reduced how much retailers would be compensated.

* A tax credit for parents who teach their children at home or send them to private school, saving those parents $14.6 million a year.

* A reduction in state money for UW-Madison by $1 million over the two-year period. Republicans have been upset over a series of decisions made by the school, including paying top-level administrator Paul Barrows his almost $200,000 a year salary while he was on leave and looking for another job.

\ Budget at a glance

The vote: The Senate approved the document, after changes were made, 17-16. The Assembly concurred on the amended version, 52-43.

What's next: Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, gets the budget now. He can approve the budget, veto parts of it or reject the entire thing.

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 9:47 AM

June 29, 2005

Gov. Doyle: Freeze Property Taxes, Not Education

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with citizens at town hall meetings in La Crosse and Milwaukee, and listen to their comments and concerns about the State Budget. From Medicaid funding, to support for environmental programs - I was happy to talk with people about the challenges facing Wisconsin in these tough fiscal times.

Many of the questions raised had to do with how we resolve the tension between our schools and taxpayers, between families with kids in school and families without kids in school. Our schools have helped set Wisconsin apart - they help our kids get good jobs when they grow up, and they are a reason why businesses choose to locate here.

But as property taxes have gone up and up and up, it's getting harder and harder on our families. Rising property taxes can take a toll on young families struggling to afford their first home, and can be even tougher for seniors on fixed incomes who are trying to stay in their homes.

For too long now, property taxpayers and our schools have been pitted against each other. It's always been a choice between higher taxes or cutting education. I think that's a false choice, and when we pit kids and taxpayers against each other, it's Wisconsin that loses.

There is no reason why we cannot resolve this tension. And we need to start with this simple premise - property taxpayers in this state have done their part.

At the same time, we must also uphold the basic Wisconsin value that says every child deserves a great education.

That's why in my budget, I made school funding the priority so that schools could get the support they needed from the state without having to raise property taxes on local homeowners. My budget freezes property taxes - but it does it in a way that protects our schools.

To fund that increase for schools without forcing communities to raise property taxes, I made tough choices. I cut $270 million in government overhead, and eliminated 1,800 positions from the state payroll. My administration is renegotiating contracts and making government more efficient. We're even selling off state planes and cars, so that tax money is spent more wisely, on priorities like education.

Unfortunately, the Legislature has a different set of priorities. And that's bad news for schools and property taxpayers alike.

In March, the Legislature held hearings to get feedback from the public as they prepared to write their version of the budget. Hundreds of people drove to Watertown, Sheboygan, and other communities to voice their concerns about state support for our schools, and rising taxes.

Citizens told Legislative leaders that education - K-12 to the UW System - needed to be a priority. However, the way the budget was written and passed by Republicans in the Legislature - you would think they weren't even there.

Republicans offered a budget that shortchanges education. Instead of funding schools, Republicans spent millions on special interests and earmarked even more pork spending projects in their own districts. And when they were done with all this special interest spending, all they had left for education was enough for just over a one percent increase.

We know in this day and age that one percent just isn't enough to keep up with the cost of living. Look at what's happening with gas prices. One percent won't even meet the extra cost of putting gas in the buses or heating the buildings, let alone new textbooks and the cost of salaries.

The result will be that once again, schools and property taxpayers will be pitted against each other. Unless citizens agree to yet another property tax increase, schools will be forced to raise class sizes, cut programs like art, music, and athletics, and lay-off teachers. In fact, one study estimates that without an increase in property taxes, the Republican budget would cause up to 5,000 teacher lay-offs.

My budget provided a modest increase for schools - about three percent a year - enough to help deal with the rising costs without having to cut vital education programs. It gave the same level of increase allowed by law over the past decade, by both Democratic and Republican Governors. My budget included enough money so that the state would pay for these increases over the next two years, so that local property taxes could be frozen.

The Legislature knows it costs more to do business. They increased spending for state government by about five percent, but they are asking schools to live with one percent. They've just got their priorities all mixed up.

But true to the spirit of Wisconsin, the question I heard most from citizens at these town hall meetings was what they could do to help stop these education cuts from happening.

Call your Senators. Tell them that Wisconsin wants a budget that freezes property taxes without hurting education.

As this process moves forward, I'm going to keep fighting and use every power I have to make sure that we can get a reasonable cost of living increase for our schools ... and a real property tax freeze. If we are just willing to say "no" to the special interests and get rid of all this pork spending, there is no reason we can't do both.

Press release
Monday, June 27, 2005

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 3:49 PM

Letter from Joe Quick, MMSD Legislative Liaison, to Madison Board of Education

BOE Members:

I saw a shocking number this week and thought it merited some scrutiny. According to Stan Johnson, WEAC president, the state's Transportation budget (defined as road construction and maintenance, according to the Leg. Fiscal Bureau) increases 18% under the GOP's budget (passed by the Assembly, awaiting action in the Senate).

I talked to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyst who deals with transportation issues to check the accuracy. He said Johnson's number includes $213 million in bonding authority for the Marquette Interchange in Milw. that the Legislature will, in all likelihood, NOT use. But he did say that with the $213M, the transportation budget DOES increase 18% (using 04-05 as the "base year" and doubling it for the 2 yrs. of the biennium). However, if you TAKE OUT the $213 M in bonding, the transportation budget still increases 8.1%. You can effectively contrast EITHER number with a 1.4% increase for K-12 (spending increase authority via $125 per pupil revenue limit increase) and a 1% increase for the 06-07 school year (a $100 per pupil increase). According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, inflation is rising about 3.5% with energy costs over the same period (Apr. 04-April 05) running OVER 17%. Oh, and the $458 million "historic" increase the GOP is touting over 90% is for property tax relief, money that school districts NEVER SPEND FOR PROGRAMS, CLASS SIZE REDUCTION, ETC. the rest (< 10%) is categorical aid. The only spending increases districts can make is through the per pupil increase in the revenue limit allowance. You can decide for yourselves what you believe to be the GOP's priorities.

Joe Quick
June 23, 2005

Posted by Ruth Robarts at 10:31 AM

June 17, 2005

JUNE 17, MMSD asks PTOs and Presumably Parents to Contact Legislators


If you have already received this Update, our apologies. We are trying to inform parents about this important budget issue before the Legislature votes next week.

Dear PTO/A Leaders:

The attached information outlines changes Republican leaders made to Gov. Doyle's budget. Please take a moment to call Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz and Assembly Speaker John Gard (contact information in news update) to express your opposition to cutting back on the allowable per pupil revenue limit increase. Gov. Doyle's budget allows a $248 per pupil increase for next school year, the GOP plan, $120 (would require an additional $3.1 million cut to the budget BEFORE it is finalized this October); for the 06-07 school year, the Gov. allows an increase of $252 per pupil, the GOP plan $100 per pupil (would require MMSD to cut $6.9 million in 06-07).

As you know, under current law the district had to cut $8.6 million this year; the GOP proposal adds another $3.1 million. For the 2006-07 school year, again, under current law, the district estimates that the "revenue cap gap" to offer a "same services" budget will be about $7 million; the GOP plan would double that estimate and require a $14 million cut for the 06-07 school year in order to comply with state-imposed revenue limits.

In your contact, talk about what cuts you've ALREADY seen at your child's school. If you have questions, or want more information, please contact me at 663-1902 or via e-mail jquick@madison.k12.wi.us.

Thanks for your interest, and help -- Joe Quick, Legislative Liaison, Madison Schools.


Number 4, June 13, 2005

GOP guts Doyle’s education budget
JFC proposes revenue limit increase below inflation

Republican legislative leaders touted an “historic increase in school aids,” but they decimated Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget proposal to have the state pick up two-thirds of the total cost of K-12 education in Wisconsin, and they offered only a 1.4% increase on the per pupil revenue limit increase as the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), on an 11-5 vote, finished its work on the 2005-07 biennial budget. The bill now moves to the Assembly.

In a late-afternoon news conference Doyle said the Republican budget was one of the largest cuts to K-12 education in decades. "We are now seeing the results of making education the last priority on their agenda. By the time they got around to education, there was no money left to support our schools. Quite simply, their budget is a cruel hoax on schools and property taxpayers. I will use every power at my disposal to make sure that we get a budget that is fair to both property taxpayers and our schools."

The reduction in the allowable per pupil revenue limit increase could be devastating to the state’s schools. The Department of Public Instruction estimates that the reduction to $120 per pupil increase for 2005-06 (from $248 per current law) and to $100 per pupil increase (from an estimated $252 per student) in 2006-07 would be a loss of $350 million in resources for Wisconsin’s schools.

For Madison, the Governor’s budget office estimated that another $3.1 million would have to be cut by October for 05-06(on top of the $8.6 million already cut) and an additional $7 million for 2006-07. The district estimates that under current law, the “revenue cap gap” in 2006-07 would be about $7 million, so the GOP proposal would translate into a $14 million cut that school year.

The allowable increase in revenue limit authority proposed by the GOP would be a 1.4% increase. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Web site, for the period of April 2004 through April 2005, the Consumer Price Index is running at about 3.5% - with energy costs up 17.1% for the same period.

Please take a moment to contact Senate Majority Leader Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) at 266-0703, or via e-mail sen.schultz@legis.state.wi.us and Speaker John Gard (R-Peshtigo) 266-3387, rep.gard@legis.state.wi.us. Urge them to restore the allowable revenue limit increase to current law ($248 in 05-06 and $252 in 06-07) and to fund two-thirds of education to relieve the burden of the local property tax payers and to benefit our state’s children. Tell them about the cuts that have hurt your school and classroom.

The following is a brief outline of the key K-12 provisions in the JFC’s budget version.

State Equalization Aid - Increase state equalization aid by $141.4 million
in 2005-06 and $230.2 million in 2006-07, but reduces Governor Doyle's proposed increase by $328.4 million.

Revenue Limits - Reduces the revenue limit per pupil adjustment to $120 in
2005-06 and $100 in 2006-07 and thereafter. Current law, proposed by the Governor, is $248 per pupil in 2005-06 and $252 in 2006-07.

Special Education Categorical Aid - Provides a $12 million increase in 2006-07. Allows guidance counselor and school nurse services to be eligible for reimbursement.

Low-incidence/High Cost Special Education Initiative - Adopts Doyle proposal to create a categorical aid program in 2006-07 to provide $3.5 million to reimburse 90 percent of costs over $30,000 per special education student - an estimated $1.4 million for MMSD.

Bilingual-Bicultural Education Aid - Increases aid by $2.4 million over the biennium, enough to keep the reimbursement ratio at its current level of 12%.

SAGE - Provides $6.14 million over the biennium to fully fund estimated SAGE
enrollments under current law. Allows participating school districts to opt-out of SAGE for grades 2, 3, or both years. Any unexpended portion of the SAGE appropriation would
lapse to the general fund at the end of each year.

Four-Year-Old Kindergarten - Maintains current level of state funding. Deletes
Doyle’s K4 $3 million start-up grant.

Declining Enrollment Districts - Deletes the Governor's recommendation to
allow districts to set revenue limits at the greater amount determined by using either a 3-year or 5-year rolling average of pupil enrollment.

School Breakfast - Deletes the Governor's recommended $1.3 million increase over the
biennium to increase the reimbursement from 10 to 15 cents to districts that offer breakfast (estimated loss of $25,000 for MMSD).

GOP leaders say they are on track to send the budget to the governor by late-June or early July. However, rumors swirled at the Capitol that the Senate may not have the 17 votes necessary to pass the bill. Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay), a JFC member, was the only Republican to vote against the bill. The GOP has 19 senators, so only two Republican senators could oppose the budget and allow the bill’s passage. When the bill does get to the Governor, he will have wide veto latitude to improve the bill, or delete provisions.

Posted by Lucy Mathiak at 10:01 AM | Comments (0)