MADISON – Both houses of the Republican-controlled state legislature passed the biennial state budget on Wednesday and Thursday with all Republicans and a handful of Democrats backing the $ 87.5 billion plan.
Here are the main takeaways from the spending plan so far, which is now heading to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ office.
GOP aims to cut income and property taxes
Republican plan cuts income taxes $ 2.75 billion over two years, primarily by lowering the tax bracket that includes individuals earning $ 24,000 to $ 263,000 and married couples earning $ 32,000 to $ 351,000.
Those earning $ 40,000 to $ 50,000 per year would see their annual taxes drop by about $ 115, while those earning $ 125,000 to $ 150,000 would see their taxes drop by about $ 1,000.
About three-quarters of the cuts will go to those earning $ 100,000 or more per year, according to the non-partisan Tax Legislative Office.
The Republican plan also cuts property taxes by $ 650 million, which result in a reduction of around $ 100 in December for a typical house.
Republican lawmakers were able to propose the cuts because the state should cash in $ 4.4 billion more than expected. Democrats wanted more of that amount to be spent on investments in schools and other government programs.
Education funding meets federal requirements; some neighborhoods say it’s not enough
Republican plan invests $ 128 million in additional taxpayer funding, less than 10% of what Evers offered.
Republican lawmakers questioned the need for a big increase in funding for schools, as school districts receive $ 2.6 billion in federal funding due to the pandemic.
Some school administrators have expressed their disappointment with state funding level and say federal dollars cannot replace normal school district obligations.
The Republicans’ property tax plan is technically referred to as school funding, which means the state can meet its funding commitment and avoid lose federal funding for schools. Democrats fear he won’t be pumping new money into classrooms.
I-94 Approval, Reverse Driving Exemption Course
Budget approves extension from I-94 in Milwaukee. Evers asked for the project, which was canceled by former Gov. Scott Walker 3 and a half years ago.
Republicans cut state funding for transit programs in Milwaukee and Madison in half because they were receiving federal assistance due to the pandemic. They have not cut the transit programs in the other cities that receive this funding.
Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee originally planned to continue allowing 16 and 17 year olds to forgo the driving skills test, a policy that the DMV piloted during the pandemic. On Tuesday evening, Republicans in the Assembly backed down and approved an amendment that removed the creation of the waiver and the staff positions that would have developed it.
Republicans providing $ 125 million to expand broadband, less than Evers was seeking
Republican plan invests $ 125 million to expand broadband access, about $ 75 million less than what Evers offers. The scheme uses the borrowed money to provide grants approved by the Civil Service Commission.
Republicans and Democrats support expanding broadband access. Evers is committed to using federal funding in addition to the state budget for grants.
Tuition freeze at UW schools ends
The Joint Finance Committee, which has developed its own expenditure proposal, voted to lift the tuition freeze at University of Wisconsin schools. UW schools will receive funding of $ 8.25 million, less than 5% of what Evers has proposed.
The state’s tuition freeze began in 2013 under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and continued under Evers. Evers wanted more funding to go to the UW system instead of allowing the Board of Regents to increase tuition fees. UW system officials supported the movement.
The budget also provides funding for some of the UW System campus construction projects recommended by Evers, including a new College of Letters and Sciences building at UW-Madison.
What is not in the budget
As they crafted their own proposal, the Republican-controlled budget drafting committee struck down nearly 400 of the measures proposed by Evers, including the extension of Medicaid, legalization of marijuana and establish standards for PFAS.
Where does the budget go next?
The plan is now heading to Evers’ office, where he can approve it, veto it, or modify it with vetoes by item. A full veto is unlikely because it would put the state at risk of losing $ 2.2 billion in federal aid to schools.
Evers did not previously rule out vetoing the budget because he thought Republicans needed to invest more money in schools to meet the sustaining federal effort, but they’ve since hit that benchmark.
Evers said Thursday he needed to see the budget documents before making any decisions.
“I can’t wait to finally get it and spend a lot of time over the next few days going through it and seeing what we’re going to do with different parts that could change,” Evers said.