The Wisconsin state Assembly budget proposal cuts needed services while simultaneously increasing the state deficit, compared with the Senate budget proposal. The Assembly increases taxes on individuals, at the same time it disdains an opportunity to save Wisconsin businesses and individuals over one billion dollars annually while mounting a significant reform to correct the health care crisis.
The Republican-controlled Assembly budget proposal is not about maintaining or providing services that are both sorely needed, and good for Wisconsin. Here are a few examples.
1. The Assembly budget cuts $19 million from the county Circuit Courts, and eliminates funding for the Access to Justice program meant to provide legal assistance to qualified indigent persons and families.
2. The Assembly budget reduces the funding provided by the Senate for Wisconsin Higher Education Grants to deserving low-income students.
3. The Assembly budget eliminates all funding the Senate included for the Wisconsin GI Bill to pay tuition at Wisconsin schools for returning Wisconsin veterans. “Support the Troops” should not be just a campaign slogan to make voters think you do.
4. The Assembly reduced the additional funding proposed by the Senate for the Well Woman Program, and for a rural colposcopy clinic to detect and prevent cervical cancer.
5. The Assembly budget would dismantle the network of family planning health care providers. And it would weaken access to health care programs such as the Family Planning Waiver.
The FPW program has saved Wisconsin taxpayers over $90 million dollars since 2004 and will bring over $23.7 million dollars in federal funds to Wisconsin in 2008 and 2009. The program was approved by Health and Human Services Secretary and former Gov. Tommy Thompson. It was specifically aimed at reducing abortions and teen births. (www.supportwomenshealth.org)
6. The Assembly proposes reducing funding for child-care and early learning opportunities that is supported by a 14-2 bipartisan majority of the Joint Finance Committee The Assembly would delete creation of a transitional jobs pilot program, delete an increase in funding for the youth apprenticeship program, would eliminate the University of Wisconsin Law School, and delete funding approved by the Senate and JFC that would allow additional schools to join the SAGE program.
7. The Senate budget will provide more money to counties for juvenile corrections, prevention programs, and other youth services. The Assembly would provide additional money for youthful incarceration only.
You probably are thinking that with all those (and more) reductions in services, the Assembly proposals would eliminate any deficit and reduce individual taxes. Surprise! The state budget proposed by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly is not about being fiscally responsible or even about cutting taxes. Here are three examples.
1. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that the Assembly budget version incurs an unfunded, long-term deficit that is $150 million HIGHER than the version proposed by the Senate. And people will pay, on average, $46 more per year in taxes and fees than we currently pay.
2. The Assembly budget deleted a Senate budget plan to close an accounting loophole and require multi-state corporations to pay state tax on income made in Wisconsin. The Senate proposal would save Wisconsin $40 million in lost revenue in 2008, and $90 million in 2009, and would level the field that now disadvantages Wisconsin-based businesses.
3. The Assembly budget reduces the Homestead Tax Credit for lower income single persons, resulting in an increase of $90 million in tax liability for these taxpayers.
Finally, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly budget proposal disdains the constitutional mandate to “promote the general welfare,” and it rejects the opportunity presented by the Democratic-controlled state Senate budget proposal to save Wisconsin taxpayers and businesses a huge bundle of money now wasted on our ineffectively and inefficiently managed, employer-funded health care system.
Healthy Wisconsin is a comprehensive reform of the administration of our existing health care system. For the first time, all Wisconsinites would get the same high quality health care that our state legislators – including those Republicans who oppose it – have had for years. And the bottom line is, it would cost us LESS than the current system that is full of loopholes, fine print, deadfalls, and uninsured and underinsured people. Over a billion dollars less per year than we are currently paying. Get rid of the myths and lies we have been told, and the special interest corporate “contributions” corrupting our political process, and we’ll get the health care system we NEED.
Wisconsin doesn’t need to keep legislators or a governor on the payroll who value their party’s war chest dollars from a few corporate special interests more than the physical, mental, and fiscal health of its citizens, and the economic soundness and world-class competitiveness of its business and agricultural sectors.
The proposed Senate budget is, in all ways, superior to the Assembly proposal. The Wisconsin League of Women Voters is among those citizen organizations working to break the log jam, and to encourage a responsible budget that meets the needs of the people.