- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Highlights of Gov. Scott Walker’s $68.2 billion two-year state budget released on Tuesday:

TAXES: Property taxes on the median-valued $151,000 home would remain about the same, dropping $5 this year and $5 next year, at a cost of $280 million. There are no changes to sales or income taxes.

OVERALL SPENDING: State spending would decrease 0.3 percent the first year and increase 6.7 percent the second year. Total state general fund spending is $15.8 billion in the first year and $16.9 billion in the second year.

BUDGET CUTS: There is no across-the-board cut, and instead the budget is balanced through large targeted reductions like a $300 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System, accounting moves and smaller reductions and savings across state government.

STATE POSITIONS: There would be a net decrease of about 400 state government positions over the two-year budget, and roughly half of those have been vacant for more than a year. The eliminated positions cut across state government, including 66 positions at the Department of Natural Resources and 60 at the Department of Corrections by doing away with third-shift tower guards at prisons.

K-12 SCHOOLS: Funding for public schools will remain essentially flat over the next two years, with revenue limits still in place to ensure property taxes also don’t go up.

VOUCHER SCHOOLS: The 1,000-student enrollment cap on the statewide voucher program would be eliminated on July 1. Going forward, only students who are transferring to a private school from a public school could qualify for the voucher, with money to pay for it coming out of the public school’s state aid funding. Payments per child will be pro-rated, instead of having a set amount as is currently done.

SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY: All schools would be assigned a letter grade based on performance measures, but there would be no sanctions for those that receive low marks. Schools would also be allowed to choose from multiple tests to measure students.

UW SYSTEM: Funding for the University of Wisconsin System would be cut by 13 percent, or $300 million, over the next two years, while also freezing tuition and giving UW more freedom from state laws.

STEWARDSHIP: The Department of Natural Resources would be prohibited from purchasing land to protect from development through its stewardship program until at least 2028. The program is set to expire in mid-2020.

CAMPING FEES: Campsite fees at Wisconsin state parks would increase $2 per night, while the vehicle fee would increase by $3.

DRUG TESTS: Childless adults on Medicaid, as well as those applying for or receiving aid from other state benefit programs, including unemployment insurance and FoodShare, which is Wisconsin’s food stamp program, would be required to take a drug test. Those who fail would be given the opportunity to participate in a free drug-treatment program and receive job training.

ROADS: Taxes and fees would not be increased to pay for roads projects, and instead the state would borrow $1.3 billion to pay for ongoing projects. He rejected calls from Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb to raise $751 million through higher gas taxes, registration fees and other new taxes and fees.

TOWNS, COUNTIES AND CITIES: There would be no cut in shared revenue payments made to local governments.

BUCKS STADIUM: The state would borrow $220 million to help pay for a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks.

PUBLIC BROADCASTING: The Educational Communications Board, which operates Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio, would see a $5 million cut.

JUSTICE: A four-person solicitor general’s office would be created in the state Department of Justice to provide more in-depth expertise on particularly complex cases.

DRUG ABUSE: A new pilot program for treating prison inmates addicted to pain relievers would be created.

PUBLIC DEFENDERS: Forty-six positions would be added to public defender offices across the state to help with burgeoning caseloads.

BOARDS: Change the boards that govern the departments of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and Natural Resources to advisory bodies.

COMMON CORE: State money to pay for tests tied to Common Core academic standards would be removed, and schools could choose from multiple tests to measure student performance.


Associated Press writers Todd Richmond and Dana Ferguson contributed to this report.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP .



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