An Overview of the 2013-15 Executive Budget Proposal

Governor Scott Walker released the 2013-15 executive budget, a proposal of how the state should spend its money for the next two years, on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

The budget bill, called 2013 Assembly Bill 40, is currently in the Joint Finance Committee. The committee will hold public hearings on the budget, but the dates were not set before press time.

After the public hearings, state legislature will discuss and vote on the budget, and when passed it will be sent to the governor for approval.

Executive Budget Highlights

Income tax cut: Walker’s executive budget proposal recommends reducing the individual income tax rates for all taxpayers. According to the Wisconsin State Journal and the state department of revenue, a family of four making $80,000 a year would save about $106 annually on state income taxes.

Leaving levy limits in place: Walker recommends leaving current levy limits unchanged, so municipalities and technical college districts can only increase their levies to match the growth in property values. A levy is a tax based on property value.

Smokers pay more: Walker recommends tobacco users on state employee health plans be charged an extra $50 because the health care costs are generally higher for tobacco users.

More money for roads: Walker recommends increasing the amount of money available for highway maintenance by $55 million. He also recommends investing in freight and harbor infrastructure.

Access to mental health care: Walker recommends investing $29 million of new funding in mental health programs that would help counties pay for community-based care for people with severe mental illness. It would also create a new office to study initiatives to improve mental health services for children, develop peer-run centers for counseling services and expand support for children with behavioral health issues.

School revenue limits stay frozen: Walker recommends increasing the amount of general aid the state gives public schools by $129 million over a two-year period, but because school revenue limits will stay in place that money can’t be used to increase school budgets. So that money will largely return to taxpayers in the form of property tax cuts.

University spending up: Walker recommends the University of Wisconsin system receive $181.4 million in new state funds under the budget, which could result in “the lowest tuition increase we’ve had in many years” according to a news release from the UW Board of Regents.

School voucher system expansion: Walker recommends setting aside an additional $73 million for expansion of the state’s Parental Choice Program, which allows low and moderate-income families to send their children to private schools using state vouchers.

Right now only the Milwaukee and Racine public school districts are included in the program, but the expansion would allow an additional nine districts into the program, with participation capped at 500 students the first year and 1,000 students the second year.

The amount of money per voucher would also increase from $6,442 per student to either $7,050 or $7,856 depending on the grade level of the student.

Source: The Wisconsin Budget Project