By Mark Jefferson
Now more than ever, Wisconsinites know the importance of a responsible, focused budget. Over the past year, countless families have been forced to do more with less due to the financial impact of the pandemic, which was only compounded by Gov. Tony Evers’ costly lockdowns and failure to get unemployed Wisconsinites the assistance they were promised.
Unfortunately, despite the governor’s role in exacerbating the impact of the pandemic, Evers hasn’t taken any cues from Wisconsinites on how to balance a checkbook. Instead, he’s proposed a bloated state budget that featured hundreds of policies unrelated to the state’s fiscal programs, resembled more of a liberal wish list and included items that he knew Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature would never support.
As a result, Republicans on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee initially removed nearly 400 divisive policy items and over $8 billion in spending increases from Evers’ proposed state budget — including a $1 billion tax hike that would have hurt Wisconsin families while many are still struggling to catch up.
The governor’s budget would have posed major problems for health care and our education system and implemented a slew of divisive policy items that make no sense for a post-COVID budget. The tail-end of a pandemic is the worst possible time to lay the groundwork for a government takeover of health care. Yet Evers’ budget would have created a public option for healthcare, which economists have shown would crowd out private insurance from the market — eventually forcing over 3 million Wisconsinites off of their private plans — and devastate rural hospitals.
Evers’ proposed budget would have also upended our education system. While the governor likes to quip that “what’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state,” his proposed budget was decidedly anti-kid. Wisconsin boasts a proud history as the birthplace of the modern school choice movement, which empowers parents in failing school districts to send their child to a school that will provide a quality education. Yet the governor’s budget would have taken an axe to educational freedom in Wisconsin by capping enrollment in all of Wisconsin’s school choice programs — including the special education scholarship program. In a time when schools in areas like Milwaukee still aren’t providing students with full access to the classroom, educational options should be expanded — not restricted.
Evers’ proposed budget also includes a slew of radical environmental proposals, including a social cost of carbon consideration. In the end, his plan could threaten nearly 100,000 Wisconsin jobs, hurt farmers and spike energy costs for all consumers.
Other items on Evers’ liberal wish list included allowing driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, repealing work search requirements for unemployment insurance recipients, reversing election integrity laws and more. How can the governor ask Wisconsinites to support and pay for such divisive policy items following a pandemic?
Right now, our state budget needs to benefit people — not big government. Instead of being forced to send more money to the government to fund divisive programs and far-left priorities, Wisconsinites should be allowed to make the best decisions for their families as our state returns to normalcy.
Fortunately, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee have promised to deliver a budget that is responsible, realistic and uplifts taxpayers, not bureaucrats. When Wisconsin families have more money in their pockets to balance their own budgets and better options for educating their kids, they will have legislative Republicans to thank.
Mark Jefferson is executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin.