Key takeaways from Gov. Tony Evers' budget proposal

NOW: Key takeaways from Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers unveiled his state budget proposal which includes investments in education, the workforce, local governments and cutting taxes for the middle-class.

Gov. Evers' 2023-2025 budget would spend $103.8 over the biennium, a nearly 18% increase in spending for the first year and 0.8% during the second year. His proposal comes as the state is financially healthy with a projected seven billion state surplus, but some Republicans have warned that pot of cash could dwindle with a looming recession.

“As we balance this historic opportunity with our historic responsibility, let’s give these priorities deliberation and debate that’s worthy of the traditions and the people of this state,” Evers said during his primetime budget address Wednesday evening.

Within minutes after presenting his budget to the GOP-controlled Legislature, top Republicans said they would scrap his two-year spending plan and start from scratch.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he believed Evers' proposal would “be the largest increase in spending in the entire history of the state.”

“In some ways I felt like I was watching Oprah Winfrey. A billion for you, a billion for you,” Vos said.

Evers made pleas to Republicans to find common ground despite their policy differences.

“These aren’t Republican or Democratic priorities -- they’re Wisconsin priorities, areas where we should be able to find common ground. This is a budget about solutions, not wish lists. This is a budget about pragmatism, not politics.”

Paid Family Leave

All Wisconsin workers would be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for personal, family illnesses or to care for a new child under a provision in Evers' budget. It would be paid for with one-time funding of $243 million.

Under current state and federal laws, family and medical time off programs only apply to larger companies to those who are eligible.

Democrats have proposed legislation to expand paid and family leave, but the proposals have stalled.

In response to the plan, Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu said the state’s current family leave programs are sufficient.

Evers also reintroduced in his budget raising the minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $9.25 in 2025 and then $10.25 by 2026. Republicans have rejected this measure in Evers' last two spending plans.

Workforce Development

Evers proposed $500 million for programs “designed to help expand the state’s workforce, invest in healthcare infrastructure and other capital projects across the state.”

“These innovative investments will ensure communities have what they need for local workers to live here, work here, and raise a family here based on local needs -- and that’s critically important,’ Evers said.

Other proposals include:

-$5M for a Housing Safety Grant pilot program in Milwaukee

-$100M to restore properties and provide safe, affordable housing

-$60M to provide low-income people with legal assistance for evictions

Education, Mental Health

K-12 schools would see a record $2.6 billion over the biennium, according to the governor’s office. Per pupil aid would increase $350 million the first year, and $650 million in 2024-2025.

Other highlights of his education plan include:

-$270 million over the biennium for student mental health

-$1 billion for special education reimbursements

-$10 million to require computer science education programs at high schools

-Allow districts to raise revenue limits

-Give all students free breakfast and lunch

Earlier this year, Evers declared 2023 the ‘Year of Mental Health.’ His budget calls for $100 per student for school mental health services.

More Money for Local Governments

After signaling support during his State of the State address for a Republican plan to boost shared revenue, Evers included a provision to use 20% of future sales tax revenue to help local governments pay for things such as police, transportation and other services – known as shared revenue.

Both sides agree there's a problem with how much money is flowing into local governments, but Republicans said after Evers’ speech they’re still working on finalizing their own plan to provide more aid to counties and municipalities.

“There will be some similarities, but it will be something that will craft that makes sense going forward,” said Rep. Mark Born, the Republican co-chair on the Joint Finance Committee.

Vos also signaled concerns with Evers' plan which he said would guarantee property tax increases to pay for it, calling it “DOA” – dead on arrival.

Tax Cuts

As previously announced, Evers unveiled his proposal for a 10% state income tax for the middle class which is estimated to provide $1.2 billion in relief over the next two years.

Individuals making less than $100,000 or married couples making less than $150,000 would benefit from the plan. Evers said it would be an average cut of more than $200 annually for 1.9 million filers.

Republicans prefer issuing relief to all tax brackets and some back Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu’s proposal to move the state towards a flat tax. Evers has vowed to veto LeMahieu’s plan to phase in a flat tax of 3.25% by 2026 if it reaches his desk.

Reeling the personal property tax, a tax business pay on equipment and other furnishing is also included in Evers' budget, a proposal that has support from Republicans.

Criminal Justice

Nearly $36 million would be allocated to improve the criminal justice system by hiring more district attorneys and public defenders.

The measure comes after pleads from district attorneys throughout the state say they're in crisis mode because of a shortage of prosecutors. Statewide, about 10% of prosecutor positions remain vacant.

Milwaukee Brewers

Announced earlier this week, Evers proposed spending $290 million of the state's seven billion projected state surplus to carry out renovations at American Family Field, and in return the team would extend their lease to stay in Milwaukee until 2043.

Evers' budget proposal would spend $60 million over the biennium traffic-calming infrastructure grants and $6.5 million to cover the costs of driver education courses for low-income students.

He also introduced measures to strengthen penalties for drunk drivers and those who are caught not wearing a seatbelt. Courts would also be required to issue ignition interlock devices to first-time DUI offenders, a law 30 other states currently have.

Proposals Opposed by Republicans

Evers reintroduced a series of progressive policy initiatives in his budget such as marijuana legalization, raising the minimum wage and allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver's license – all measures Republicans previously rejected.

Republicans object to:

-Expand the state’s Medicaid program, Badgercare

-Require universal background checks and implement so-called “Red Flag” laws

-Automatic voter registration

-Repeal lame-duck laws

-Restore some union rights repealed by Act 10

What’s Next?

Over the next four months the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee will craft their own spending proposal after vowing to scrap Evers' and start from scratch.

Then the Legislature will hold a vote on the budget before delivering it to Evers' desk for consideration.

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