Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 7, 2022
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — State Rep. Mark Born, co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, says Republicans will be checking Gov. Tony. Evers far left inclinations while delivering major tax relief and investments in critical initiatives in the next budget.
The Beaver Dam Republican, recently re-appointed to the leadership post on the powerful budget-writing committee, said he’s going to approach the work of the 2023-25 biennial budget the way he approached the last two budgets: By putting the taxpayer first.
“We’re looking at major tax cuts or tax reform, whatever you want to call it, to send money back to taxpayers that have been taxed too much,” Born told Empower Wisconsin in an interview Tuesday.
Born and his colleagues enter next year’s budget debate with an unprecedented projected $6.6 billion surplus. A Wisconsin Policy Forum report released on Tuesday notes the hefty budget balance sets up an “unprecedented opportunity for new state spending, reduced taxes, or both in the next budget.”
If Evers’ previous budget proposals and his agencies’ spending requests are any indicator, the freshly re-elected governor is going to once again push a laundry list of liberal, grow-government proposals. According to the Department of Administration, state agencies are requesting some $5.7 billion in total budget increases from the current spending plan, a 10.6 percent hike.
Evers and his Department of Public Instruction chief have already proposed significant spending increases for the state’s troubled K-12 system. Born said he sees room for compromise on education, infrastructure, corrections and in straightening out Evers’ botched handling of the state-run veterans homes. But the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee has a different idea of necessary spending than the governor.
“The difference is in the amount he’ll want to spend is going to be higher than we would find reasonable,” Born said. “We’d like to see reforms and more opportunities for families around school choice.”
Republicans have suggested more public school funding tied to universal school choice.
“Look, I am willing to go to our caucus and advocate for more money for public schools. I think that’s good for our state,” Vos said recently at a WisPolitics forum in Madison. “I think school choice is good for our state. It’s kind of settled law. That doesn’t seem to me to be an outrageous position.”
It will be a tough sell for a governor who served a decade as DPI superintendent and whose campaign is beholden to the state’s teachers unions. In his last budget proposal, the Democrat proposed freezing enrollment in Wisconsin’s school choice programs — Milwaukee, Racine and statewide.
There are potentially other areas of agreement between majority Republicans and Evers. Born said local governments, hit like everyone else by soaring inflation, could see a boost in state revenue.
Born said the state’s strong fiscal health is the beneficiary of conservative budgets and billions of dollars in tax cuts over the past decade-plus. During Evers’ tenure, Republicans on the finance committee have had to re-build the governor’s non-fiscal policy-packed budget proposals from the ground up. Born said it’s very possible that may happen again, if Evers can’t stay fiscally disciplined.
“We’e seen two budgets from this governor that have been massive in spending and tax increases,” the lawmaker said. “Those are policies that would erase all we’ve accomplished in this state over the last 10 or 12 years.”