Walker signs 2-year, $70 billion Wisconsin budgetWisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a $70 billion, two-year state budget on Sunday that includes a $650 million income tax cut and the expansion of private school vouchers statewide but rejects a federal Medicaid expansion.
By: Associated Press report, Associated Press
PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a $70 billion, two-year state budget on Sunday that includes a $650 million income tax cut and the expansion of private school vouchers statewide but rejects a federal Medicaid expansion.
Those items approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature were the Republican governor's main priorities during the session. In rejecting a federal expansion of Medicaid, the governor proposed changes that would remove a cap in the state-federal program so that all Wisconsin residents with incomes under the federal poverty level get care.
He touted that change at his budget-signing ceremony, along with new tougher work requirements for people receiving food stamps. Under the budget, people receiving aid will have to seek work five times per week or be enrolled in a job training program.
“We say it's time to get the training, and the access to training so that when a job becomes available, you are ready to get in the game,” Walker said.
The governor of Wisconsin has broad veto powers over the state budget, with the ability strike individual words within a sentence to change its meaning, remove individual digits to create new numbers and delete entire sentences from paragraphs. Walker made 57 changes to the budget using his veto power. Most were technical.
The two most significant changes he made eliminated provisions creating a bounty hunter program and kicking an investigative journalism center off the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Bounty hunters, or bail bondsmen, haven't been allowed in Wisconsin since 1979, and Walker said previously the idea was something he “wasn't thrilled with.”
It was the second time Walker vetoed bounty hunter legislation. It had been slipped into the budget this year on the last motion the Republican-controlled budget committee approved in the middle of the night, along with the provision that would have kicked the independent Center for Investigative Journalism off of the UW-Madison campus and barred it from working with university professors. Walker said the center's relationship with UW-Madison was an issue for the UW System Board of Regents to handle.
There had been some question of whether Walker would veto enrollment caps for new private school vouchers, but he didn't. Walker and Republican leaders previously worked out a deal that would limit the statewide expansion to 500 students next year and 1,000 after that. Walker originally proposed expanding vouchers to only nine cities, but with no enrollment cap after the second year.
The governor, who signed the budget in Pleasant Prairie, did veto a budget amendment that would have allowed existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine to accept students eligible for the statewide expansion without having them count toward the cap. Walker said that veto was meant to “make it more certain our deal remained intact” and show “my word was good.”
The budget also includes an income tax deduction for all families with children in private schools.