- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Assembly Republicans outlined their priorities for the next legislative session Tuesday, saying they’ll keep focusing on reforming state regulations, expanding voucher schools, fighting public assistance fraud, finding new ways to pay for road construction and protecting personal data.

The announcement comes with the Nov. 4 election just two weeks away. Republicans control the Assembly 60-38 with one independent and are in little danger of losing their majority, but the announcement gives individual GOP candidates more talking points for the campaign trail in the final days.

“We’ll have an aggressive agenda ready to go,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said during a news conference.

The 2015-17 session begins in January. The Republicans’ plan includes continuing to review the state’s administrative code with an eye toward reducing red tape that the GOP says is holding back businesses, balancing the state budget without raising taxes and limiting government growth to projected personal income growth.

Republicans want to expand voucher schools and create state-based academic standards in lieu of Common Core, a set of English and math standards in use across 44 states, including Wisconsin. The GOP also promised to extend a University of Wisconsin System tuition freeze.

Also on the agenda is legislation that would create electronic benefit cards complete with user photos for all public assistance programs, sending recipients annual statements listing the assistance they received and from what programs and screening recipients for drugs.

Republicans promised to stabilize the state’s transportation fund as well. The fund, built largely on gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, covers road construction and repair. Declines in gas consumption as drivers use more fuel-efficient cars and rising construction costs have led to a projected $680 million deficit in the fund.

Walker has said he is thinking about replacing the gas tax with a sales tax on different fuels such as gas, electricity or natural gas.

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, co-chairman of the Legislature’s powerful budget committee, said Tuesday he hasn’t seen a lot of details on how that would work. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said he envisions paying for some services that transportation fund currently covers, such as mass transit, with general tax dollars.

Another faced of the plan calls for stepping up data privacy. One proposal calls for requiring kill switches on all cellphones that would enable their owners to remotely erase all their personal data on the devices if they’re stolen or lost. Another would prohibit unauthorized GPS tracking.

Assembly Minority Speaker Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, issued a statement Tuesday blasting the GOP agenda, saying Republicans don’t want to prioritize support for public schools or affordable health care coverage.

“It’s scary to think,” he said, “that Republicans want to be even more extreme and divisive.”

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