Governor Scott Walker signed the 2013-15 State Budget into law today which provides nearly $1 billion in tax relief for Wisconsin families, $322 million in additional state aid for public schools, and a $100 million investment in workforce development.
"This budget is a sharp contrast from where we were two years ago," Governor Walker said. "Our structural reforms, coupled with tough, but prudent, decisions, have led to a great investment in the people of Wisconsin. This budget benefits hardworking Wisconsin families by providing them with nearly $1 billion in tax relief, $322 million more for our public schools, and $100 million for workforce development. We focused on making life better for the residents of our state, and this budget builds upon a solid foundation for the future. We're heading in the right direction and moving Wisconsin forward."
Two years ago, we were all faced with the consequences of years of avoiding tough choices. Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion budget deficit, nearly 134,000 of our family, friends, and neighbors lost their jobs, property taxes had gone up 27 percent over the previous decade, and the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.
Together, we made tough, but prudent, decisions and addressed the root of the problem. Because of those tough decisions, Wisconsin created a $670 million budget surplus. Today, we're in a great position to move forward with significant investments in our public schools, tax relief for all income taxpayers, workforce development, health care, and infrastructure.
Governor Walker signed the 2013-15 State Budget at Catalyst Exhibits in Pleasant Prairie. In 2011, Catalyst Exhibits announced it was relocating its operations from Crystal Lake, Illinois to Pleasant Prairie, bringing over 100 jobs and millions of dollars of investment to Wisconsin.
Highlights of the 2013-15 State Budget
Income Tax Relief
This budget provides nearly $1 billion in tax relief for the hardworking taxpayers, including $650 million in individual income tax relief. This is the largest income tax cut in 14 years, and the largest income tax rate reductions go to those making between $15,000 and $50,000. Nearly 80 percent of the tax cut goes to people who fit President Obama's definition of the middle class.
These tax reforms reduce income tax brackets, put more money in the hands of consumers so they, in turn, can help grow the economy, and make Wisconsin more competitive with other states.
Governor Walker believes it is our duty to ensure every child has access to a great education. This budget invests $380 million in new state funds for public education and quality educational opportunities for students throughout our state. This includes a $322 million investment in our public schools.
In addition, this budget will:
- Cap the University of Wisconsin (UW) System's tuition for two years. This two year tuition freeze is a first for the UW System since its creation in 1971.
- Provide $2 million to support startup costs, additional programs, and course offerings for the new University of Wisconsin Flexible Option Degree Program. This is a first-in-the-nation program.
- Open the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program to all school districts. The expansion will be capped at 500 students statewide in FY14 and 1,000 students statewide for FY15. Milwaukee and Racine students do not count toward the cap and no more than one percent of students from any school district will be allowed to participate. Students must be from families with income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The budget also requires choice schools to maintain their accreditation each year.
Medicaid Entitlement Reform
Governor Scott Walker is focused on moving people from dependence to independence. This budget is projected to increase the number of insured individuals by over 224,000, which reduces the number of uninsured individuals in Wisconsin by half.
In addition, this budget will:
- Ensure everyone has access to affordable health care. We will cover every person living in poverty under Medicaid, which means we will cover an additional 82,000 childless adults. It will also cover people living in poverty through Medicaid and allow individuals above that level to access affordable health insurance coverage through the federal health insurance exchange. This proposal affects non-elderly, non-disabled adults. Under this plan, Wisconsinites in poverty will be covered by Medicaid and those above poverty up to four times the poverty level would receive federal health insurance premium subsidies to purchase health insurance offered in the exchange.
- Eliminate the BadgerCare Plus Core plan waiting list providing coverage to thousands of Wisconsinites currently in need of coverage.
- Fund a $685 million increase in state funds for Medicaid. This is just to cover the cost to continue the current program. Changes mandated by the federal government account for 39 percent of that increase. In Wisconsin, we're providing that essential safety net to help those in need, while safeguarding Wisconsin taxpayers from the financial uncertainty coming from Washington, D.C.
Our plan safeguards Wisconsin taxpayers from unnecessary risk and builds on Wisconsin's strong track record of providing affordable health care to its people.
The 2013-15 State Budget will go into effect in the next fiscal year, beginning Monday, July 1.