MADISON — Bigger tax cuts, fewer public employee hires and evenly distributed education funding — that was Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos’ tentative prescription Friday for Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget.
After the pomp, circumstance, applause and press conferences surrounding the governor’s budget announcement Wednesday, Vos and others in the state Legislature are preparing to dive into the proposals in detail.
His approval for the governor’s main proposals notwithstanding, Vos, R-Rochester, said that on a cursory reading he already sees room to improve Walker’s budget.
Of Walker’s proposed $343 million income tax cut, Vos said, “I think it’s a good first start. I give Governor Walker credit for focusing on income taxes.”
But, “Of course, I would like a bigger (tax) cut,” Vos said, suggesting that subsequent tax code reforms and other spending reductions could hopefully deepen that proposed cut.
Vos also expressed a “natural bias” toward utilizing private sector labor over public employees where possible, expressing reticence regarding 710 new public employees budgeted for hire in Walker’s budget.
Vos might be open to the proposed hires, he said, but only if data shows public workers will prove cheaper in the long run.
Additionally, Vos said he’d prefer less bonding in the budget, which increases bonding for roads projects. Legislators previously only paid interest, not principal, irresponsibly adding to the state’s debt through previous bonding, Vos said.
“We need to make sure that we’re only doing an adequate level of bonding and not using it as a crutch to increase spending,” Vos cautioned.
Vos said he was pleased to see funding for education. But, he said, “It looks to me like we are increasing university system funding as much as we are for K-12 spending across the state.”
Through changes in the Legislature, “I want to balance that out,” he said.
Where some legislators have expressed trepidation on Walker’s proposed voucher school expansion, Vos said, “my only regret is that it could have been statewide,” rather than only expanding the voucher program in select school systems.
Republicans hold the majority in both the Assembly and Senate, but must be wary to avoid Walker’s veto pen as they wade into the budget process.
With some Republicans against the voucher expansion, Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, sees wiggle room on education funding which, he said, “seems way off-balance to increase resources going into private vouchers schools... and leave flat public schools that just got the biggest cut in state history.”
Democrats’ main push will be to reverse the governor’s decision to reject federal dollars for a Medicaid expansion, offered as part of the national Affordable Care Act but rejected by the governor earlier this month.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.