Budget puts state back on track toward prosperity
In the face of a $6.6 billion budget shortfall, Democrats showed responsible leadership last week, making the tough choices necessary to pass a plan that puts Wisconsin back on the path toward economic recovery.
At a time when most families are looking for ways to do more with less money, we have cut back, too. Our budget makes the deepest spending reductions in Wisconsin history, slashing most state agency funding by 6.1 percent across the board. State employees will be furloughed—and your legislators will share in that sacrifice, returning portions of their paychecks to state coffers.
Through deep spending cuts, Democrats protected middle-class workers and families from tax increases. Our budget shields 99 percent of all people in Wisconsin from income tax increases. All Wisconsinites are protected from general sales, payroll and gas tax hikes. And we held the line on property taxes.
Democrats also safeguarded Wisconsin’s priority investments. Our budget holds shared revenue reductions at 3.5 percent to ensure that our communities can deliver vital services, like police and fire protection. We limited cuts to K-12 education and have protected working families from tuition increases at UW schools to ensure that our children—our future leaders—have exceptional educational opportunities despite economically tough times.
Our budget identified affordable, accessible health care as a pressing need for families. After years of fighting for fair health care insurance practices, Democrats have passed a measure requiring coverage of treatments for autism. Our plan expands FamilyCare, extends coverage for those with mental health issues and restores funding for county-run nursing homes, as well.
We also attacked the root of our deficit—the economic downturn. We know that a nationwide meltdown caused fiscal emergencies in Wisconsin and 46 other states, but we cannot rely solely on the federal government for solutions. That is why Democrats have made job creation and economic growth a central focus.
Our plan has increased funding for worker retraining programs at Wisconsin’s technical college system to $5.2 million. We have boosted business with millions in grants and tax credits for research, development and innovation. We have established tax credits for companies that create or sustain jobs and invest in Wisconsin facilities. And, with our budget plan, we have given the green light to $250 million worth of infrastructure improvement projects that will generate 10,000 family-supporting jobs while building up our highways, railroads and shipping channels.
The bottom line is that Democrats—and sadly, Democrats alone—have delivered a responsible, forward-thinking, balanced budget. Under our leadership, a budget was enacted on time for the first time in more than 30 years. In meeting the statutory deadline, we maximized our share of federal funding, securing more than $80 million worth of support for state programs.
With quick and thoughtful action, Democrats solved the worst budget crisis in state history, setting Wisconsin on a track to fiscal soundness and future prosperity.
Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, is Assembly speaker; phone 1-888-947-0044; e-mail rep.Sheri-dan@legis.Wisconsin.gov.