Governor Scott Walker kicked off his “Freedom and Prosperity for All” Budget Tour today by heading to La Crosse, Eau Claire, Stevens Point, De Pere, and Oconomowoc. The 2015-17 Biennial Budget is based upon growth and opportunity, which ultimately leads to freedom and prosperity for all.
“My family has helped to instill in me a deep belief in the possibility of the American Dream,” Governor Walker said. “They helped me to realize that with hard work, I could achieve anything. I believe the same to be true for all citizens of Wisconsin, and the common-sense reforms we’ve included in our budget proposal will help to restore the American Dream right here in our great state.”
Highlights of the 2015-17 State Budget:
More Effective, More Efficient, More Accountable
Governor Walker’s Freedom and Prosperity plan merges several agencies and consolidates various programs to provide better service to the customer, as well as better value to the taxpayers.
The budget will merge two state entities that work on economic and housing issues into one highly effective organization called the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.
The budget also creates the Department of Financial Institutions and Professional Standards by combining the Department of Financial Institutions; Department of Safety and Professional Services; Office of Business Development; Small Business Regulatory Review Board; administrative functions relating to the certification of disabled veteran-owned, woman-owned, or minority businesses; oversight of tattooing, body piercing, and tanning; and certain functions of the Educational Approval Board.
Growing the Economy
Governor Walker’s budget proposal builds upon the successes of the first term and advances progress to ensure freedom and prosperity across Wisconsin. The unemployment rate is down to 5.2 percent, Wisconsin is 12th in the nation in growth in per capita personal income growth, new business ventures are up nearly 11 percent, and in November 2014, Wisconsin experienced its greatest month of private sector job growth since 1990.
Developing Our Workforce
Governor Walker’s Freedom and Prosperity plan invests more into the successful Wisconsin Fast Forward program to helps people get the skills they need to succeed through technical college courses, apprenticeships, and training programs, as well as working on ways to help our military veterans find employment or even start a business of their own.
Governor Walker’s Freedom and Prosperity plan includes a bold proposal to provide new governance through an authority, similar to the UW Hospital and Clinics Authority. This gives the UW System full flexibility of its use of state resources, while maintaining college affordability with another two-year tuition freeze. In exchange for the added flexibility, state taxpayers will realize $150 million in savings annually. The Freedom and Prosperity plan also lifts the cap on school choice enrollment to help ensure every child, regardless of zip code, has access to a great education.
Governor Walker’s Freedom and Prosperity plan expands the requirement for able-bodied adults to be enrolled in an employment and training program to receive food stamps. The budget proposal enables state government to efficiently deliver the high-quality services our taxpayers expect, while helping empower people to move from government dependence to the independence and prosperity that comes from work.
Investing in Infrastructure
Maintaining a strong infrastructure system is another positive way to grow the economy, not only for the people who design, build, and maintain it, but because it is key to commerce in this state. Governor Walker’s Freedom and Prosperity plan includes significant investments in our transportation system, expanding broadband access, and continuing to improve the quality of health care throughout the state.
Property Tax Relief
Budget reforms over the past four years reduced the burden on the hard-working taxpayers of this state by $2 billion, and Governor Walker’s Freedom and Prosperity plan continues reforms, so the property tax bill on a typical home will be even lower during the next two years. Property taxes on a typical home were $131 lower in December of 2014 than they were four years ago. As Governor Walker promised, property taxes by the end of 2016 will be lower than they were in 2014, which means lower property taxes for six years in a row.
Reforming Health Care Entitlements
Governor Walker’s Freedom and Prosperity plan focuses on maintaining crucial safety net programs, such as Medicaid and SeniorCare, for the neediest citizens of our state, while also putting in place reforms that guarantee that these programs are functioning efficiently and effectively. His plan includes proposals that would limit expenditure growth and preserve essential health care services.
Improving Mental Health Programs
Governor Walker’s previous budget made significant investments into mental health programs to expand and build services provided by state and local governments to individuals with mental illness, and he continues this commitment in the 2015-17 State Budget proposal. This Freedom and Prosperity plan includes redesigning juvenile community supervision programs, streamlining mental health funding, improving response to mental health crises, and providing funding to assist counties with expanding their crisis service programs. Additionally, Governor Walker’s budget proposal seeks to expand existing drug addiction programs in the Department of Corrections (DOC).
Supporting Our Veterans
Governor Walker holds deep respect for the selfless service our veterans have given, and makes taking care of Wisconsin veterans a top priority. The Freedom and Prosperity plan expands upon the commitments of his first budget to guarantee that veterans and their families have the resources they need to thrive when they return from serving their country. This budget includes proposals that would connect veterans to family-supporting jobs as well as assistance for veteran business startups.
Helping Victims of Domestic Violence
In his previous budget, Governor Walker made considerable investments to protect victims of domestic violence by developing care and centers for those abused as well as their children. The Freedom and Prosperity plan provides additional funding in order to continue this support for victims and their families.
Protecting Wisconsin Citizens and Our Most Vulnerable
Governor Walker realizes how crucial it is to safeguard all Wisconsin citizens, but especially our children, who are the most valuable among us. The Freedom and Prosperity plan includes investments directed at increasing protections for children, such as providing additional funds to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to increase services provided to child sex trafficking victims.
Preserving Wisconsin’s Heritage
Part of Governor Walker’s economic priorities is bolstering the economy of our rural communities, as well as increasing protections for Wisconsin’s natural resources. The Freedom and Prosperity plan proposes investments to establish an agricultural producer led-water quality initiative, provide funds over the biennium to reduce nonpoint source water pollution, support the opening and expansion of several new facilities at parks and southern forests across the state, and ensure the safe and legal harvest of ginseng in Wisconsin.