As the spring legislative session came to a close, the State Assembly took up the 2013–15 State Budget Bill.
The budget bill is one of the most important bills the legislature considers in any given session. As a Certified Public Accountant and sophomore legislator for our area, I take the budget process very seriously. I understand the impact it will have on our district’s businesses and families.
There are some provisions in this biennium’s budget that are very positive. To start, I believe the action taken by the Joint Finance Committee to adopt the income tax cut plan of Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R–Brookfield) plan was a step in the right direction.
Wisconsin has notoriously been categorized as one of the top ten highest taxed states in the nation. This income tax cut will likely take Wisconsin out of the top 10 highest taxed states and allow our working citizens to keep more of what they earn.
I also worked with my colleagues to ensure there were provisions in the budget to improve Southwest Wisconsin. These include preserving Gov. Scott Walker’s Sauk County freight rail funding and providing an alternative to the City of Dodgeville/Lands’ End property assessment dispute.
It was also encouraging to see JFC increase funding for K–12 public schools. Both as a graduate of Wisconsin public schools and as a father who sent his children to Wisconsin public schools, I know how important our education system is to our state.
If the items I mentioned above were individual bills, I would vote for them. However, as a state representative I only get one vote on the entire 1,000 page document — not on each individual provision.
My ultimate decision process on the budget vote was lengthy and difficult. Although there were numerous provisions in the budget that I supported, I ultimately voted against the budget bill.
One of the most glaring problems with this budget is that it will result in an estimated $545 million structural deficit. As a CPA, this troubles me. It is especially troubling considering the fact our 2013 fiscal year started with a $500 million surplus due to the successful budget reforms from last legislative session. When I ran for office, I pledged to reform the way budgeting is done in Madison; therefore, I cannot support a budget that is not balanced.
In addition, I do not support the increase in borrowing that the budget authorized. At the end of the biennium, our state will owe an extra $500 million. As stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, I believe state government needs to tighten its belt rather than put unnecessary spending on the state’s credit card.
I am also concerned with property tax increases that may result from the passage of the budget. While the income tax cut was positive for Wisconsin families, an increase in already high property taxes will be harmful and might negate the positive impact of the income tax cut.
As you can imagine, the budget vote was a difficult decision, but I didn’t come to Madison to make easy decisions. I believe voting no was the best vote for the residents of my district. As always, I welcome any feedback or comments you may have.