Gov. Scott Walker signs 2013-2015 state budget into law

PLEASANT PRAIRIE (WITI) -- Governor Scott Walker on Sunday, June 30th signed the 2013-15 state budget into law.

According to Gov. Walker's office, the $68 billion budget 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 is a great budget, a great budget for the taxpayers -- the hard working taxpayers -- of the state of Wisconsin," Gov. Walker said Sunday.

The budget covers the state for the next two years, and institutes a handful of major policy changes in the state, including:

    “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.”

    Gov. Walker's office says:

    "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.

    The 1,500 page budget bill contained several provisions that Gov. Walker considered vetoing.

    "There are 57 vetoes I've issued as part of this budget," Gov. Walker said.

    Two of those in particular went against the wishes of some staunch conservatives. First, a provision that would have allowed the bail bonds business, or bounty hunters, in Wisconsin. With Gov. Walker's veto, they will not be able to set up shop in the state.

    Gov. Walker also vetoed a measure that would have kicked the Center for Investigative Journalism off the UW campus -- so it stays on campus for now.

    The Republican Party of Wisconsin released the following statement after the budget was signed into law:

    “This budget helps to spur economic growth for all Wisconsinites by providing tax relief, initiatives to transform education and further investments in workforce development,” said Brad Courtney, Chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “I applaud Governor Walker and Republicans in the Legislature for their leadership on investing in the priorities of our state to continue moving it forward.”

    Meanwhile, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) released the following statement:

    "Gov. Walker’s extreme budget fails the middle class and will continue to take Wisconsin down the wrong path. Despite numerous opportunities to improve this budget, the governor and Republican legislators actually kept making it worse for public schools, property taxpayers and people who count on basic services.

    The governor’s budget expands taxpayer-funded private voucher schools statewide while failing to restore historic public school cuts in the last Republican budget. It gives people making more than $300,000 more than 10 times the tax break it gives to the average working family. It rewards special interests who want to prey on consumers while middle-class families get left behind. And it includes what may be the worst decision made in our state in a generation – a health care plan that covers 85,000 fewer people and costs taxpayers an additional $120 million.

    The last Republican budget is one of the primary reasons Wisconsin is 38th in the nation in job growth – and at or near the bottom by any objective economic measure – since Gov. Walker took office. Not only does this budget fail to reverse that damage, it actually doubles down on an economic agenda that has devastated Wisconsin over the past two and a half years.

    My fellow Democrats and I have traveled the state for months talking to people about their priorities for this budget. And I can confidently say they neither wanted nor deserved the budget Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans gave them.

    In the coming weeks and months, Democrats will continue to advance legislation designed to undo the worst aspects of this budget. We hope the governor and our Republican colleagues will finally listen to the public and work with us to help put Wisconsin back on the right track.”

    Meanwhile, Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair and State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) released this statement following the budget signing:

    "In February, Governor Scott Walker introduced an extreme, anti-middle class budget that, over the past few months, Republican lawmakers only made worse with amendments for their special interest allies and big-money donors.

    The Republican budget directs millions of state dollars to unaccountable, private voucher schools that are less effective in educating children, kicks thousands of people off lifeline health care plans, allows the sale of state property without a bidding process, and does so very little to create jobs - unless you're a payday lender.

    Worse still is the fact the Republican budget digs us deeper in debt.  Through tax breaks aimed at the wealthiest 1%, they somehow managed to turn a $700 million revenue surplus into a $500 million structural deficit.

    Governor Walker would have needed a veto pen the size of a sugar maple - as well as a sense of what Wisconsin truly values - to fix this budget.

    In the days and months ahead, we will make sure everyone, in every corner of Wisconsin knows what Republicans have done - and that Democrats have real plans to get folks back to work, strengthen public schools, and restore balance and fairness to our tax system."

    Now that the budget has been signed, the debate continues over who benefits in the next two-year budget.

    "As a whole, it's still a bad budget for the middle class," Sen. Chris Larson (D - Milwaukee) said.

    "Absolutely not. It couldn't be more pro-middle class," Sen. Alberta Darling (R - River Hills) said.

    The 2013-15 State Budget will go into effect in the next fiscal year, beginning Monday, July 1.