As we enter a new year, the state Legislature is once again preparing to tackle a wide range of issues including the 2013-15 state budget.
In early February, Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his budget address and introduce his executive budget proposal — a roadmap for his fiscal priorities. After the governor’s budget is introduced, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance will spend weeks gathering public testimony, analyzing the budget line by line, and making changes based on feedback from concerned citizens, businesses and advocacy organizations.
This will be the third time I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Joint Committee on Finance, and while the state is expected to bring in $1.5 billion in new revenue during the next two years, I know that balancing our budget will require us to prioritize our tax dollars and make smart investments.
As our state’s fiscal picture starts to come into focus, we will learn more about the upcoming budget decisions that will need to be made. For example, State Superintendent Tony Evers has put forward a comprehensive “Fair Funding for Our Future” plan that would restore funding to local schools and provide much-needed property tax
relief in our region. The Department of Health Services also has requested an increase of $1.05 billion to fund critical health care programs that serve low-income, disabled and elderly residents.
Additionally, economic development must continue to be a top priority as we look for ways to provide assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs. According to Forbes Magazine, Wisconsin’s business climate dropped to 42nd in the country and our job growth rate is projected to be second worst in the nation through 2016.
In order to provide long-term economic stability, we need to do a better job of keeping businesses in our state and help them create good-paying jobs.
All of these issues must be balanced against requests from our university and technical college systems to address the state’s “skills gap,” the rising cost of housing inmates in our prisons, upgrades and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure, and the need to hold the line on taxes.
Over the coming months, the state budget process will play out in committee hearing rooms, town hall meetings and media outlets throughout the state. Throughout this process, we need to remember that many families continue to struggle as a result of our slow economic recovery.
By working in a more bipartisan manner and making sound investments, I am hopeful we can help people find jobs, grow our economy and prioritize our limited financial resources to get our state back on track.
I look forward to hearing from you so that I can continue to represent our shared values throughout this process.