MADISON, Wis. (AP) — There will be no additional tax revenue over the next two years to help reduce Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed cuts to K-12 schools and the University of Wisconsin System, state lawmakers learned Wednesday.
The eagerly awaited update to projected tax collections, which policymakers had hoped would include at least enough money to plug a $127 million cut that Walker has proposed for public schools next year, contained no such windfall.
“We believe that the current estimates for the three-year period are still reasonable and should not be adjusted,” wrote Bob Lang, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
As recently as Tuesday, Republican co-chairs of the Legislature’s budget committee said they were hoping for improved projections so money could be spent on K-12 schools and to reduce Walker’s $300 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System. Republicans have also said they want to reduce Walker’s $1.3 billion in borrowing to pay for roads.
But Wednesday’s news means the Legislature will face even harder decisions in the coming weeks as the Joint Finance Committee makes changes to Walker’s budget, first proposed in February. The committee is hoping to complete its work by the end of the month, with the Senate and Assembly voting on the budget in June. Walker, who has been traveling extensively in advance of a likely presidential bid, has said he wants to wait until the budget is done before announcing his intentions for the White House.
But his budget proposal has met with strong bipartisan opposition in the Legislature as well as among the public.
Now they will have to chart a different path.
Neither Republican legislative leaders nor Walker immediately responded to requests for comment Wednesday.
Lang said in his memo that in January his office predicted that tax collections would increase 3.7 percent this fiscal year compared to last, but had only gone up 3.3 percent through April. While the numbers are expected to improve once all tax processing is completed, Lang cautioned that any additional revenue will likely be offset by reduced growth rates in the next two years.
Democrats were quick to seize on the report, blaming both Walker and Republicans who have been in control of the Statehouse for five years.
“These weak revenue projections are another indication of the harm that three rounds of Republican budgeting, as well as their anemic economic development efforts, has done to our state,” said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, of Kenosha.
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