Over the four months since Gov. Tony Evers presented his 2019-21 biennial budget, there have been countless meetings throughout the state, and a lot of debate.
Much of his budget did change. That is bound to happen when there is there a Democratic governor and Republican-majority Legislature.
That said, the budget does keep many of the priorities that Evers initially outlined. Because of that, Evers should sign this budget into law.
The budget doesn’t include as much of a spending increase on K-12 education as Evers had initially proposed, but it does include a per-student increase over the biennium.
According to figures provided by the office Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester: “The education budget also doubles the current funding for student mental health programs and increases special education funding by more than 20 percent.”
In talking to the Journal Times Editorial Board, Vos said he took Evers’ proposals on the budget and put money toward improving infrastructure, education, health care and keeping taxes low.
Granted, it’s a disappointment to Democrats that Medicaid expansion was not included in the budget. But the budget isn’t the only way policy change can happen — and it shouldn’t be the only way laws are changed.
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Some Democrats call the budget a “missed opportunity,” but it doesn’t have to be. Important discussions need to continue in the fall, and they can be separate from the budget.
For example, Evers’ proposal to legalize marijuana was taken from the budget. But that is not the end of it: On Friday, Vos said he is open to having discussions about legalizing medical marijuana in the fall.
Additional discussion on transportation funding will also need to take place in the fall.
It’s worth noting that while the budget now in the governor’s hands is the work largely of Republican legislators, it’s not a budget that all Republicans like.
State Sen. David Craig, R-Big Bend, whose district includes the Village of Waterford, was one of the few Republicans to vote against the budget. He didn’t think it was conservative enough.
“My constituents did not send me to Madison to substantially increase the size of government. Unfortunately, that is what this budget does,” Craig said in a statement after the Senate approved the budget on Thursday.
Republicans could have made more cuts. But they recognized, and funded, many of the priorities that Evers presented. That is why this budget should be approved.