Bounty hunters are out, and investigative journalists can stay.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker planned to sign the $70 billion 2013-15 state budget Sunday in Pleasant Prairie, using his veto pen to remove or partially remove 57 items, up from 50 in the previous budget.
Among the vetoes, Walker will eliminate a provision that would have legalized private bail bond agents in five counties. He vetoed a more expansive proposal in the 2011-13 budget.
The state banned the practice more than 30 years ago because it resulted in corrupt practices. Law enforcement officials, including GOP Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, opposed the measure, and Walker said he agreed with them that it should be removed.
He also will delete a clause added by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee that would have booted the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism from the UW-Madison campus and prohibited faculty from collaborating with it.
Instead, he will ask the Board of Regents to review its policy on housing organizations such as the center, which gets office space from the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Communications in exchange for paid student internships and guest lectures.
“It’s appropriate for (the Regents) to look at it,” Walker said in an interview Friday with the State Journal. “But it should be done in the context of a larger policy, not just specific to one organization.”
In the interview, Walker called those his two biggest vetoes. The governor spoke on the condition that the newspaper not disclose the vetoes until Sunday, including to lawmakers or others who might comment.
The governor also plans to veto two last-minute changes to the statewide voucher expansion: One item would have allowed schools that currently participate in the Milwaukee and Racine voucher programs to enroll students outside of those districts in excess of the statewide program cap, which will be 500 next year and 1,000 the following year.
State Superintendent Tony Evers warned after the Assembly adopted the provision that those schools could open satellite locations around the state to circumvent the cap. Walker said the veto respects the deal he made with legislators regarding the voucher program, which includes the cap. It also cuts spending in the budget by $4.2 million.
The other voucher-related veto will eliminate a provision that would have required the state Department of Public Instruction to get a private voucher school’s permission to release certain information to parents, the public and journalists.
The budget includes a $650 million income tax cut; a limited statewide school-voucher expansion; a $250-per-pupil increase in funding for public schools over two years; and changes to the state’s Medicaid program that will cover all adults earning up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level — $11,490 a year for a single person — but require those living above it to enter private insurance exchanges.
Walker said he won’t alter those major pieces of the budget, which he introduced and the Republican-led Legislature modified.
Also in the budget is a two-year tuition freeze for the University of Wisconsin System. Walker retained that provision and will use his veto to freeze differential tuition, which some campuses charge for certain programs.
The governor planned to delete a freeze — sought by the Legislature — on fees that students can approve or turn down in campus elections.
Walker didn’t provide a complete list of vetoes but said many of the others relate to reports the Legislature required for certain programs. He also said he will cut a $200,000 stewardship fund earmark for an extension of Bearskin Trail in Lincoln County.
Democrats have criticized the state budget as anti-middle class because it cuts taxes paid by the wealthy, provides $30 million in tax deductions for private-school tuition, and rejects a federal Medicaid expansion that would have covered people earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 for a single person.
The budget leaves a $500 million hole for the 2015-17 budget. That structural deficit is lower than it has been in all but one of the budgets over the past 15 years.
“This budget is full of wrong decisions and misplaced priorities,” Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said in a press release Friday in anticipation of Walker signing the budget. “Wisconsinites made clear in November that our priority is to build a stronger middle class with a fair tax structure that does not primarily benefit the wealthy, cause an expensive future deficit or sacrifice public education and health care.
“Scott Walker’s budget fails to meet those standards, and it fails the middle class.”
Walker said Democrats are “grasping at straws.” He said the public will appreciate the income tax cuts, the incentives for businesses to grow and to move here, the additional money for K-12 education and the UW tuition freeze.
“There’s a lot of things that will tremendously benefit the hard-working taxpayers of this state,” Walker said.