Four out of 10 Wisconsin residents want state aid to elementary and secondary schools to be protected from spending cuts, but most don’t realize school aid is the biggest expense in the state budget, according to a new poll.
The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute telephone survey of 615 randomly selected Wisconsin adults last Monday through Wednesday revealed misperceptions about the state budget, which officials may need to correct as they grapple with the upcoming two-year budget, said George Lightbourn, president of the conservative think tank.
Thirty percent of those polled said they thought Medicaid insurance for lower income households was the top expense in the state budget; it actually ranks second by a large margin. Twenty-one percent picked the correct answer: aid for elementary and secondary schools.
Others who guessed the top expense incorrectly included 13% who picked transportation, 12% who picked aid to local government (shared revenue), and 10% who guessed higher education, all of which are considerably less expensive than aid to elementary and secondary schools.
The state faces a projected deficit of at least $2.2 billion in its upcoming two-year budget, assuming Governor-elect Scott Walker and lawmakers make spending cuts that have yet to happen – two more years of state employee furloughs, no pay raises, a virtual hiring freeze and belt tightening in state health programs, the Journal Sentinel reported Saturday.
Without that $1.1 billion in savings, the shortfall is projected at $3.3 billion.