by Senator Terry Moulton
The first task for legislators at the beginning of each two-year legislative cycle is to pass a budget that outlines the annual spending for each state agency, as well as the initiatives that each agency is directed to undertake.
You’ve probably been hearing quite a bit about the state budget since the Governor’s budget address on February 3rd. The budget process can be long, complicated, and overwhelming, so this week I’m going to try to make the process a little bit easier for everyone to understand.
Last fall, Governor Walker asked each state agency give him their request for the upcoming state budget. These requests include the amount of money the agency needs to continue current programs and to create new programs. The Governor takes all of these requests and makes adjustments, creating an overall state budget. Now that the Governor has presented his Executive Budget, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is made up of legislators from both parties and both houses of the legislature, will hold hearings where public input is received and amendments to the budget are made. This process can take quite a bit of time and is usually where the majority of changes to the state budget occur. This year, the Joint Finance Committee is hoping to complete their hearings by Memorial Day, at which point the budget will go to both houses of the legislature where legislators can introduce other amendments. Once both houses have approved the same version of the budget, Governor Walker can sign the bill into law, veto it entirely or veto it in part. As you can see, the budget process takes a long time and the budget can potentially go through many changes during the months it is being considered.
The 2015-2017 State Budget includes funding for a number of excellent programs that will benefit west-central Wisconsin. The 23rd Senate District has many rural areas and I am excited that the Governor’s budget includes additional resources for rural schools. The budget increases the amount of funding for the Sparsity Aid program and the High-Cost Pupil Transportation Aid program, both of which assist rural schools in providing the best education possible.
Additionally, for the sixth year in a row, the budget includes provisions that mean the average Wisconsin home owner will see a decrease in their property taxes. Tuition rates at University of Wisconsin schools will also continue to be frozen so that students can achieve an excellent higher education without worrying about the burden of rising tuition. The budget also provides $5 million to assist victims of domestic violence and $2 million to assist victims of human trafficking, two growing problems in our state.
Governor Walker’s 2015-2017 State Budget proposal will receive great scrutiny and many changes will be made as it makes its way through the legislative process. I will work hard to create long-term solutions that will protect the hard-working taxpayers of Wisconsin, create jobs, promote small businesses, and move Wisconsin forward.
I hope that I’ve helped you learn a little bit more about how the state budget process works. As always, if you have questions or comments about any state-related issues you can contact me at Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov or (888) 437-9436.