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Walker signs Wisconsin’s $70.1 billion budget, powered by veto pen

By   /   June 30, 2013  /   22 Comments

By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

PLEASANT PRAIRIE – Surrounded by more than 50 supporters, including children and war veterans, Gov. Scott Walker on Sunday signed Wisconsin’s $70.1 billion, 2013-2015 budget into law.

The Republican governor, put the executive pen to a Republican-led budget, signing the biennial spending plan beneath a banner that declared, “Working for Wisconsin.”

Walker, appearing at Catalyst Exhibits Inc., a trade show booth design and marketing company that relocated to the state from Illinois in 2011,  said that while the media would focus on his vetoes, the “real story is this is a budget built for the hard-working taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin.”

Still, the final budget, which goes into effect on Monday with the start of the fiscal year, bears 57 incisions from Walker’s veto pen. The budget two years ago was marked by 50 partial vetoes.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Gov. Scott Walker signs the 2013-'15 budget Sunday in Kenosha County. He calls the budget, led by Republicans and loathed by Democrats, a big win for taxpayers.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Gov. Scott Walker signs the 2013-’15 budget Sunday in Kenosha County. He calls the budget, led by Republicans and loathed by Democrats, a big win for taxpayers.

The governor pointed to the budget’s “$1 billion in tax relief for individuals and small business owners. He also noted  the budget holds property tax increases to 1 percent and provides $322 million more for public schools, $100 million for workforce development programs and $6.4 billion in transportation spending.

“We invest in jobs that help build and maintain infrastructure,” Walker said, noting upgrades to the roads, bridges and airports that move people and goods through the state and into national and international markets, including $486 million to keep the Zoo Interchange project on time.

More significant, the governor said, the budget continues to reform state government, altering the state’s Medicaid, unemployment insurance and food stamp programs – a point not lost on his detractors, who accuse Walker of being more focused on presidential aspirations than helping the state he serves.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, in a statement said the budget “includes what may be the worst decision made in our state in a generation – a health care plan that covers 85,000 fewer people and costs taxpayers an additional $120 million.”

One of the hallmarks of Walker’s budget is the rejection of $4 billion-plus federal dollars to expand the state’s Medicaid rolls. The federal government has offered to  pay 90 percent of the state’s cost to expand Medicaid after fully funding the increase for the first three years.

Walker, though, insists the federal government won’t keep that promise and that in the long run, the costs will devastate state finances. Even with rejecting the federal cash, Walker’s budget spends more than $750 million in new General Program Revenue for medical assistance programs and will cover all Wisconsinites living below the federal poverty level – about $11,500 for a single person.

He says it’s part of his initiative to wean people off “government dependence to true independence.”

“We enact major unemployment reform with a focus on getting people back into the workforce,” Walker said.

The budget also alters the FoodShare program, requiring able-bodied adults without dependents need to work or be enrolled in a work training program to receive food stamps.

57 Vetoes

The governor used his partial veto power 57 times in this budget, including striking two provisions that garnered significant criticism – the introduction of bail bondsmen to the Wisconsin court  system and a measure from Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee that would have banned the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from continuing to use state facilities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Walker also vetoed a section of the budget that would require the Department of Public Instruction to release all school choice data at the same time, rather than on a selective basis.

In his veto message the governor said, “I object to the selective release of portions of student information, which erodes the goals of consistency and transparency related to data surrounding parental choice programs.”

One of the controversial cornerstones of the budget is the statewide expansion of the school voucher program. He vetoed a provision that requires DPI to approve a third-party accreditation status for private schools participating in the program. Walker said DPI doesn’t have the authority to issue that approval.

The governor also vetoed language that might have allowed more than 500 students next year and 1,000 the following year to enroll in the expanded program. Those caps were worked out in a deal made between Walker and moderate Republicans reluctant to support the budget with his initial proposal that tied voucher expansion to performance on the statewide report card system.

Other vetoes include a proposed surcharge on state employees that use tobacco, a provision which the governor said is now out of line with federal restrictions. And Walker removed a requirement that municipalities larger than 5,000 use OpenBook, a system to make government expenditures available for searching on the Internet. Walker said the proposal was an “unfunded mandate” and a “huge undertaking” for municipalities.

The partial vetoes weren’t nearly enough to satisfy angry Democrats, who had relatively little to do with the final budget product. Barca blasted the Republican budget as one of the “primary reasons Wisconsin is 38th in the nation in job growth – and at or near the bottom by any objective economic measure – since Gov. Walker took office.”

“Not only does this budget fail to reverse that damage, it actually doubles down on an economic agenda that has devastated Wisconsin over the past two and a half years,” Barca said.

Working example

A dozen or so demonstrators gathered outside Catalyst Exhibits to protest the budget signing. Their complaints ranged from wanting more money for public education and less money in the school choice program to budget’s jump in borrowing.

It wasn’t the kind of strength in numbers that battled the last biennial budget, when controversial reforms gutted collective bargaining for most public employees in the state. But there were the usual chants and signs, replete with colorful language.

Budget Haters: Gov. Scott Walker's budget-signing ceremony was greeted by protesters opposed, for a variety of reasons, to the 2013-'15 state budget.

Budget Haters: Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-signing ceremony Sunday was greeted by protesters opposed, for a variety of reasons, to the 2013-’15 state budget.

Catalyst was a fitting site for the budget-signing ceremony; the company is an active example of the governor’s Working for Wisconsin theme. Catalyst left tax-heavy Illinois for the greener economic development pastures of Wisconsin in 2011, bringing more than 100 jobs and millions of dollars in investment to the Badger State.

Catalyst Exhibits received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant from the now-defunct state Department of Commerce as well as a $1.25 million low-cost loan from the Kenosha Area Business Alliance.

And Catalyst has been a strong supporter of the governor.

CEO Paul Stahlberg contributed $20,000 to Walker leading up to last year’s recall election. Catalyst President Tim Roberts also contributed $20,000 to Walker’s recall campaign.

Roberts introduced Walker and said the company has invested $4 million since moving to Wisconsin, while growing the business 35 percent and increasing employment.

In a statement, Walker noted the state’s significantly improved fiscal state since 2011, when, in the aftermath of the most severe recessions in decades, Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

“This budget is a sharp contrast from where we were two years ago,” the governor said.  “Our structural reforms, coupled with tough, but prudent, decisions, have led to a great investment in the people of Wisconsin.”

“We focused on making life better for the residents of our state, and this budget builds upon a solid foundation for the future,” he added.

Contact Ekvall at [email protected]


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.

  • cazie

    Thank you governor.

  • Chantecler

    Dittos – great job. The Democrats’ only solutions are quick fixes via government manipulation of the free market system. This budget will reduce generational dependency and provides greater incentives to work and consequently more self sufficiency in the long term. We still have safety nets for those incapable of helping themselves.

  • kenvandoren

    The reality is that this is a $4 Billion to a budget that still leaves us as a top tax and spender in the nation. Sure, not as bad as the $6 Billion increase in Doyle’s last term, but if the budget was too big then, it is surely too big now. This spending increase will leave fewer dollars in the private sector where all wealth is created, it will leave fewer dollars for companies and individuals to save, invest, spend and put more people to work.

    Peter Barca re-interpreted: “YES THE GOP Budget is bad and spends too much, but we want to do MORE to ruin the state economy by taking even more out of the economy and giving it to our friends who benefit from state spending.” Barca is intellectually and philosophically challenged. Bad joke he is.

  • kenvandoren

    $Billion INCREASE…..

  • jacklohman

    What matters, Ken, is “where” Walker is spending the money, and it is NOT on our kid’s schools but *IS* on the Fat Cats that send him campaign bribes.

  • cazie

    Schools are getting more monies than ever before, with poorer results. How about cutting administrative costs-their extravagant pay is not warranted. Isn’t it suppose to be about the kids? How did we ever do it 30-40 years ago with less than half the education spending; and more free thinkers with less drop outs. All of you arguing for more spending don’t seem to have a clue about truly educating children.

  • cazie

    More has been allocated to our healthcare in Wisconsin, and increased spending for schools. That takes care of that billion Ken.

  • kenvandoren

    Jack- It DOES matter what the overall spending is. Wisconsin remains a high tax, high regulation state and that negatively affects the economy. And I know we could spend less on education and get better results. I could balance the budget in one fell swoop by defunding by half the Dept of Public Instruction. THey are about implementing brain washing programs, like “power and privilege” white guilt operations, and implementing COmmon Core. DPI spend about $4400 per K-12 student. That is obscene, and has a more negative than positive influence on the outcome. Cut DPI by half=$4 Billion + in savings, enough to keep total the same as last budget cycle.

    cazie and Jack- in the time it took K-12 enrollment to double, administration costs went up 4 times as fast. Obviously hiring more administrators has a negative affect on outcome.

  • TheTruthLives

    And they can now strap you down and take your DNA in clear violation of the 4th and 5th Amendments. Kudos to the handful of fearless County GOP Chairs who called it for what it is. I am disgusted for having supported this administration, not once but twice. It won’t happen a 3rd time.

  • MotherOfFour

    Our schools? The same schools performing (cough) oh so well as is obvious in society’s youth today? THOSE schools? The same schools from which the group of criminal government workers union spat on taxpayers by performing an illegal strike, and they STILL demand more? THOSE schools? Those wonderful liberal indoctrination centers who instill beliefs that murder is “pro-choice”, that parental rights are anything-but, that sexual perversion is not a mental illness, but is something they believe they have the right to forcibly impose on us, that religious intolerance is actually “tolerance” unless it involves some camels and Pizza Hut table cloths as attractive headwear? THOSE schools?

  • cazie

    Ken-I’m against the increased monies to schools. I was just reminding Jack that this budget gives them more; but that doesn’t solve the problem, and they’re still not satisfied. I agree with what you’ve stated.

  • Patrick Schuppe

    Setting the bar high on giveaway. That’s the way to do it Gov. Walker.

  • cazie

    Again-I was telling Ken that the increase is about monies to those things the Dems wanted; but they still aren’t satisfied. Our schools are most definitely and indoctrination center, and have been for decades. Any parent who sends their kids to public school is a fool.

  • MotherOfFour

    Agreed. I was being sarcastic while playing off your post, not trying to contradict it. Sorry if it came across as anything but.

  • jacklohman

    Folks, I agree that spending “more” money on schools is NOT the answer, and there are parts of Walker’s attack on schools that I agree with. YES administrative salaries are too high, and YES bad/abusive/inadequate school teachers should be fired totally from the payroll. Privatizing the school system with vouchers is NOT the answer (remember the private contractor Booz Allen and Snowden?) And WEDC?

    Our big problem in Wisconsin is bought-and-paid-for politicians, and Walker’s $30 million in campaign bribes from out-of-state Fat Cats. And yes, public sector unions that got what they asked for.

    I seek only one thing… politicians whose elections are publicly funded so they are beholden to the people of Wisconsin rather than unions or special interests.

  • jacklohman

    Ken, see my comment below…

  • Anne D

    A sad day in American history!

  • Anne D

    It seems to me that the educational system is attempting to raise children rather than focus on educating them. Children are coming to school early for free breakfast, having free lunch at school and getting backpacks filled with food on the week-ends. I realize that these are federal programs, but still cost the taxpayers money. The same people getting free meals for their children at school also qualify for food stamps. Many children don’t behave, and parents blame the teachers, and the schools, rather than disciplining their own children. Children are being bused (from school) for dental visits. Parents receive checks, for around $400.00/month (when their children qualify with a disability) with no accountability for that money-it doesn’t have to help the child unless the parent chooses for it to. That’s why many parents try so hard to have their children labeled. Women stay at home so they can qualify, or they were never married in the first place and have 6 children before they wise up. I’m beginning to believe that if you cannot feed your children, or take them to the dentist, you should be charged with child abuse–maybe it’s felony and Walker could get his hands on their DNA. I’d love to stop here; but, I just can’t. Someone decided that forcing curriculum down the throats of small children was good for them. Filling the school lunch program with tons of carbs, denying children recess more than ONE 25 minute block and making them sit for long periods of time for curriculum that is not even developmentally appropriate for them–and we wonder where obesity and sedentary lifestyles start!!!!! Maybe some of you could start one of these private voucher schools! Non-parochial though, I still believe in separation of church and state.

  • Jerry Person

    This is like putting salt on the wounds. what type of parents would let there children near walker ? This guy will be torturing tens of thousands of children with this budget. all in the name of ALEC his God.

  • Jerry Person

    GOP good old pervs. Walker created all Wisconsin `s budget problems. ALL

    You can not tell me one AMERICAN supports walkers regime with it`s policies ALEC has forced them to do. They have also illegally have meetings and refuse to turn over any corrispondense with alec their Puppetmaster. America went to war with Iraq because the Taliban was evil and had a war on women the rights of minorities. Many news talk show compare Wisconsin war on women to the same as the Taliban war on women now. All GOP consider themslves second class citizens or they would have a leader who workers for them not Alec and David Koch and ignores their needs. Alec under walker in 1995 created truth in sentencing. This stole the liberty from some 1.9 million Wisconsinites over the past two decadeds to help Walkers pirvate prison industry. This distroyed tens of thousands of families and the fathers. It also created the drop out problem in Wisconsin walker is now talking about. The state own numbers show this has cost Wisconsin. 2.2 billion annually more than it would have. This is 35 billion plus Walker and alec has added to Wisconsin budget. This makes Walker responsable for the states budget problems no one else. Alec is has now had it`s puppets destroy education in Wisconsin. Who would support teachers who are not required high school educations besides an idiot? The same idiot who supports coat hanger abortions.

    Wisconsin has less people and less crime and has 8 times as many people in jail as minnesota? walker and Alec have been bilking you since 1996 and will be bilking you now for decades. If Wisconsin had commonsense would end the prison industry and it could give free college educations to everyone and supply healthcare and have money left over. Walker spent 60 million in prisoner healthcare last year. This would help thousands of need children. We need a leader who works for the people not alec. Now Bucyrus Inc CEO says we have this skills gap because they could not find skilled workers with college degrees and 5 years experince will to work in there shop for $7.80 per hour threw manpower. The UW system did a seperate study Wisconsin has ten of thousands of qualified people for any job with a living wage. All the expanse fro human services to healthcare, remember we built 71 new courthouse and jails so alec and walker has cost wisconsin over 100 billion. .

    Websters dictionary says to change what is norm for personal, political or religious reasons is an act of perversion. Who could support a street walker besides another street walker. (whore)

  • Jerry Person

    How many million does this budget give ALEC and the Koch addicts?

  • Jerry Person

    Wisconsin would have 100 billion in the bank if not for walker and alec`s truth in sentencing. walker is the only reason Wisconsin has problems. walker and ALEC`s truth in sentencing forced Wisconsin to hire some 32000 union public sector workers. Anyone with a pea brain knows walker is down 99 billion on being conservative and up 32000 public sector workers supporting small government just like king George bush did. he is spending your money like a drunk sailor and your to blind to see. turn off fox and you will learn something. the show are you smarter than a first grader has you stumped. Any who was around in 1996 was fighting the states mandate jail expansions and courthouse expansions. Why do you hate conservatives and small government and small business. walker is pro huge corporation and huge government with the corporation writing the laws. this is great in Russia. this is why wlker can not pass a bill that does not violate the constitution the paper he does not understand. It is not like Koch`s stalins constitution at the ALEC conventions. Are you really that uninformed you should sell moms tv. The channel you watch is not an American one