The Legislature passed the 2015-17 state budget last week after months of public hearings, debate and deliberation.
While there is no doubt this was a difficult budget, it was also a responsible one that we can be proud of.
By making some tough financial decisions, we ensured the interests of Wisconsin’s taxpayers were protected.
We refused to raise sales, income or property taxes. We undertook long awaited, meaningful reforms to Wisconsin’s antiquated prevailing wage law, which artificially inflated the cost of taxpayer-funded projects to the tune of hundreds of millions annually.
These changes will translate to real relief for Wisconsin’s hardworking taxpayers.
One of the greatest challenges we faced this budget cycle was tackling the persistent struggle of funding our state’s infrastructure with less and less available revenue. This is not a problem unique to Wisconsin, but an issue facing states across the nation as federal highway dollars dwindle and more fuel efficient vehicles result in less revenue from gas taxes.
This year, Wisconsin’s voters took a huge step in addressing this problem over the long term by approving a constitutional amendment to protect Wisconsin’s transportation fund.
In this budget, we looked toward the future by refusing to allow our state’s transportation borrowing to swell to unmanageable levels, and made difficult decisions to ensure we continue to foster the development of infrastructure — but not at the expense of maxing out the state’s credit card.
Equally important, we ensured we continued to invest in our priorities, fully funding K-12 education in the first year of the biennium and allocating an additional $100 per pupil to our schools in the second year.
We reduced the proposed cut to the University of Wisconsin System and created new flexibilities to allow one of our state’s greatest institutions to be reactive to this and future financial challenges.
Throughout this budget process, we have listened to and implemented the valuable feedback we received from our constituents. We protected the programs that Wisconsin’s most vulnerable populations rely on, including SeniorCare, FamilyCare and the Wisconsin Retirement System.
We heard the concerns of the constituents who called, wrote and emailed our offices, and we removed some of the most contentious and unpopular provisions from this budget while adding other items that were widely called for.
The extensive public input we received played a significant role in shaping the document that we sent to the governor’s desk, and I want to thank each and every constituent who got involved in this budget process along the way.