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Senator Fitzgerald Column: Investing in Wisconsin ’ s Priorities

Wisconsin has come a long way in two years. In 2011, we were left with a mess after years of poor budgeting that placed a heavy reliance on fund raids, one-time federal money, tax increases, and runaway spending. Past leaders chose to ignore fundamental problems with our finances, leaving future generations to deal with the wreckage. It was an irresponsible way of doing things, and you elected us to fix the problem.

After looking at the books in 2011, it was clear to us that we couldn’t continue the Democrats’ reckless levels of spending and debt. As we’re seeing now in D.C. and in states like Illinois, debt paralyzes a government’s ability to invest and plan for the future. Your family sticks to a budget and lives within its means, why shouldn’t government be expected to do the same? After tackling our challenges head on, we transformed a $3.6 billion deficit into a $419 million surplus and deposited historic amounts of money into the state’s rainy day fund. This is what responsible government looks like.

In this budget, we will be able to invest in our priorities because we made tough but forward-thinking decisions in the last. As I mentioned previously, Wisconsin is expected to end the biennium with a budget surplus. That’s your money and you deserve to get it back in the form of an income tax cut. Governor Walker’s proposed $343 million income tax cut will benefit middle class families and every person who pays income taxes. The fact that we can offer tax relief is a true testament to what we’ve been able to accomplish financially over the last two years.

As announced recently in Governor Walker’s address to the legislature, the focus of this budget is on creating jobs, developing our workforce, transforming education, reforming government, and investing in our infrastructure.

Here are a few major proposals in Governor Walker’s budget:

  • $475.6 million investment of new state funds for public education
  • $132 million for workforce development programs
  • $650 million for Medicaid
  • $28.9 million for mental health programs
  • $11 million to help victims of domestic violence
  • $25 million for investment capital

Those are just a few items in the governor’s proposal that begin investing in the future of our state. The legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance will soon begin holding public hearings to hear your concerns and improve this budget, and I encourage your participation in this important process. Together, we have and will continue to move Wisconsin forward.