Wisconsin Legislature passes state budget

MADISON- According to reports from Madison, the Wisconsin Legislature passed the state budget in the early morning hours on Friday, June 21.

“I am proud of the Legislature’s work on this budget, which truly invest in Wisconsin and our priorities. Because of our sound fiscal management and tough, but prudent decisions over the last two years, we are now able to provide nearly $1 billion in tax relief for Wisconsin families and businesses, more money for our public school system and additional education options for parents across our state, said Governor Scott Walker. In addition, this budget reforms government to provide access to affordable health care options for everyone in Wisconsin and reduces the number of uninsured people by over 224,000. These reforms strengthen Wisconsin’s safety net for those in need, while protecting our taxpayers from unnecessary risk and the fiscal uncertainty coming out of Washington, D.C.”

A few highlights of the bill include an income tax cut of $651 million over two years with $30 million a year in income tax savings for the parents of the nearly 100,000 private school students in Wisconsin. Families could receive an income tax deduction of up to $4,000 for private school tuition paid for each kindergarten through eighth grade student and up to $10,000 per high school student.

Public schools will be provided with $150 more per student in state aid and local property taxes this fall and another $150 increase in 2014-15 for a total of $289 million over two years. However, because of the $50 one-time per-pupil bump to many districts in this past school year, the proposed $150 will be lowered this fall.

In terms of the voucher schools, programs that are currently available in Milwaukee and eastern Racine County will be expanded across the state. In its first year, 500 children of families with income of up to 185% of the federal poverty level could attend a religious or private school with taxpayer money. The following year the cap would be raised to 1,000 students permanently; Democrats have expressed concern that this number will go up again soon after.

As an example under the income guidelines, a family of four would be eligible for the statewide program if the family made up to $50,567 a year. Once a part of the program, the family could remain in it no matter how high their income rose.

As for health care, nearly 90,000 people from the BadgerCare Plus program would shift into a new online insurance marketplace, where the participants are supposed to find replacement health coverage.

In doing so, Republicans are passing up a federal offer to cover 84,700 more people in Medicaid than their plan and would receive enough additional federal tax money over the next two years to pad the state budget by $119 million even after covering the cost of those additional people, according to the Fiscal Bureau.

Governor Walker plans to review the changes made by the Legislature over the next several days and will be signing the bill before the beginning of the next fiscal year.