GUEST VIEW: GOP’s state budget proposal is just plain dishonest, hurtful
As the conference committee joins to work out a final version of the state budget to send to the governor, there is very much at stake. So I want to be very clear. The budget that Assembly Republicans are bringing to the table is wildly out of touch with basic Wisconsin values.
The cuts in their budget would have devastating effects on many areas of life — from health care to education to public safety to economic development. They made sure to cater to big oil and include a tax break on gold bullion, but they failed to ensure that Wisconsinites have health care or that our kids have good schools.
First, the Republican Assembly budget would cause immediate harm to public schools. Statewide, it would cut schools by nearly $130 million, keep Wisconsin dead last in the nation in school breakfasts, increase class sizes, and layoff 1,700 teachers. That means $2.7 million less for La Crosse County schools.
The Republican budget would also slash over $125 million from University of Wisconsin campuses and eliminate all increases for student financial aid.
On average, the GOP budget would cut 5 percent to community aids — impacting local police and fire protection and emergency services, not to mention snow removal, garbage pickup or street maintenance. Like I said, Republicans are aiming at some of the most basic services you can think of.
And then there’s health care. Democrats have been working hard to find the best way to make sure Wisconsinites get the health care they need. The governor’s budget had a plan to cover 98 percent of our citizens, and the Senate had another plan to provide universal healthcare. And what have Republicans contributed to efforts to find the best way to provide affordable health care to Wisconsinites? Nothing.
Well actually, they’ve done even less than nothing. The Assembly Republican budget eliminates programs to provide affordable health care for over 185,000 Wisconsinites, including 38,000 uninsured children. And it cuts funding to critical programs that serve some of our most vulnerable citizens — seniors, the disabled and the young.
But every time Democrats try to work to find the best way we can make sure Wisconsinites have affordable health insurance, Republicans come back with nothing but the same old rhetoric.
They try to tell us that they are the ones standing up for taxpayers, that these drastic cuts are all in the name of a “no tax increase” budget. What they’re not so quick to talk about is the $256 million fee increase their budget also includes.
Now, I understand there is a difference between a tax and a fee, but it seems to me that if Republicans are trying to tell Wisconsinites that their budget is best because it doesn’t increase taxes at all, they should be a bit more forthright about fee increases. Because in the end, it is still an increase and the taxpayers are still footing the bill. Let’s at least be honest about what we’re talking about.
As the conference committee works through the budget in the days and weeks to come, I can only hope this sort of honesty will win out over rhetoric, and that together, we can pass a budget that puts Wisconsin families first. At the heart of this budget process is protecting the basic values of our state, and GOP legislators have failed to do so on many levels.
I urge Republicans to rethink their extreme budget and put their focus back where it should be — on the hard-working families of this state, our public schools, our veterans pursuing higher education and our citizens who need health care. And I urge you to tell them the same thing.
Joe Wineke is chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
From the West Salem Coulee News: