Target 2 On Assignment: Wisconsin's Fiscal Imprint - WBAY

Target 2 On Assignment: Wisconsin's Fiscal Imprint

Madison -

A battle over priorities will kick off the next legislative session in Madison.

State agencies are requesting $171 million more than what's projected to be available in the next state budget.

Beyond that, it will highlight how the Republican-controlled legislature will govern starting in January.

Governor Walker will announce his next budget proposal early next year.

"Is there a chance we could have an across the board middle class tax cut?" Republican Senate President Mike Ellis asks. "We would like one."

Ellis, from Neenah, turns his office into the 2013 Republican roadmap.

At the top of the list - the state budget.

"We are not going to go back to the old plan of having structural deficits," Ellis said. "So that's number one. No more funny book-keeping tricks."

What Republicans want, in a sense, Republicans can get with a strong majority in the Assembly and just enough votes in the Senate.

"I think we need to make sure our priorities are very, very clear," Rep. Andy Jorgensen said, who was recently elected chair of the Democratic caucus in the Assembly.

Jorgensen will work to include Democratic proposals in the budget.

"Education is a big one, and there's been some big cuts that happened in education," Jorgensen said. "Once again Republicans ran on supporting public education. We've got to hold them to their word and make sure that remains a priority."

In a recent speech to the Reagan Foundation, Governor Walker set the framework for his proposal.

"We're going to continue to lower our property taxes and we're going to put in place an aggressive income tax reform," Walker said.

The Governor's priorities are mirrored by the leadership.

"It needs to be in balance and that means no deficit pushing payments out into the future," Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said. "If there's any success we had in last session, it was doing just that."

Some Republicans have hinted an expansion of the school voucher program could be part of the budget. That program allows parents in Milwaukee and Racine to send their kids to private school with tuition partly reimbursed by the state.

"If an area like Green Bay has similar issues or there are other parts of the state where we see the public school system isn't working for parents, I would support having more choices for them," Republican Assembly Majority Leader Robin Vos said.

As a budget provision, though, this would face some stiff opposition in the Senate, even from Republicans.

"I'm insisting no modifications to the voucher program gets stuck in the budget," Ellis said, who worked to stop certain expansion provisions last session, like possibly to Green Bay. "We're not going to muck it in, stick it in the budget and then people say they didn't want to do it, but they had to do it."

Democrats say they will push back even more.

"If one of their pursuits is to throw more money at unaccountable voucher schools that we've had in Milwaukee for 22, 23 years, that's a non-starter," Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson said.

Given all the budget requests, and stated priorities, what could be a big roadblock lawmakers say is what happens in Washington, most immediately the fiscal cliff.

"We aren't on an island in the middle of the Neenah slough, just to pick something locally," Ellis said. "We are part of a national economy which is part of a global economy."

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