MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker has revealed some of the high points of the state budget he will release on Wednesday. But many of the details await, as do almost certainly a few surprises. Here is a look at what's known and unknown about the two-year spending plan he will deliver to the state Legislature on Wednesday.
K-12 SCHOOLS: Walker is proposing spending $649 million more on K-12 schools, including a per-student increase of $200 next year and $204 the year after. Walker also proposed targeting more funding directly to rural schools and increasing aid to pay for transportation costs and districts with very few students.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: Walker promised to cut tuition for all in-state undergraduates in the UW System, but he hasn't said by how much. Walker said he would give more details on Tuesday. He also hasn't said whether he will fulfill UW's request for $42.5 million in additional funding. But Walker has said any new money would be contingent upon the university meeting performance measurements not yet specified.
WELFARE REFORM: Walker has unveiled a sweeping reform package that would require parents receiving food stamps to get a job or be enrolled in job training. Details over how much benefits may be cut to families that don't meet the work requirement, and when those reductions would take effect, have yet to be released. He also wants to raise benefits under a tax credit program for the working poor that he cut six years ago. He's also asking President Donald Trump for the ability to drug-test food stamp recipients and to receive federal funding through block grants, which would allow for dramatic changes in how benefits are awarded in the state.
HEALTH INSURANCE: Walker supports the repeal of the national health care law passed under then-President Barack Obama, but it's unclear what steps, if any, the state would take at this point while Congress considers what to do. Legislative leaders have said lawmakers may not address that issue until this fall or next spring.
ROADS: Walker has long promised that his budget won't raise gas taxes or vehicle registration fees to pay for roads. To deal with a nearly $1 billion shortfall, Walker has said he will be delaying work on about $500 million worth of ongoing major highway projects and borrowing about that much. The budget will reveal details of that plan, including how much the state will have to pay in debt service.
ENVIRONMENT: Walker has said he's open to increasing state park entry fees and camping fees, and the Department of Natural Resources has also suggested raising the cost of hunting and fishing licenses to deal with budget shortfalls. The DNR has also submitted a reorganization plan to deal with staffing cuts, while at least one Republican state lawmaker wants to split up the agency. Walker's appointed DNR secretary, Cathy Stepp, opposes that move and Walker has not indicated that he would be proposing that in his budget.
TAXES: Walker wants to institute a sales tax holiday on the purchase of designated back-to-school items, but has not said if he will propose any changes to the state income tax. He has rejected calls from Democrats and advocacy groups to scale back an income tax break primarily benefiting manufacturers and millionaires. There is also a push to reduce or eliminate the state's personal property tax, which businesses have long railed against. Walker said his budget would cut other taxes, but he hasn't said which ones or how much.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: Walker pledged in his State of the State address in January to focus on making sure people looking for work have the skills and training necessary to fill about 80,000 vacancies currently posted on a state jobs site. That push dovetails with Walker's proposal to require food stamp beneficiaries to be working or receiving job training.
LINCOLN HILLS: The troubled youth prison is the subject of two federal lawsuits alleging misconduct by guards and an ongoing Federal Bureau of Investigation probe. Critics of the prison say it should be shut down and inmates, most from Milwaukee, should be housed closer to home. Walker has said he's open to giving Milwaukee County money for a new facility, but hasn't said how much he may propose in the budget.
VOUCHER SCHOOLS: Walker is a longtime advocate for the voucher school program under which parents receive a taxpayer-funded subsidy to pay for a private school education. He signed a law to take the program that began in Milwaukee statewide. But its growth was restricted. Advocates are pushing to allow it to grow faster, and Walker has not said what he plans to do.
WISCONSIN RETIREMENT SYSTEM: Wisconsin's multibillion-dollar pension system is the only fully funded one in the country, making it a ripe target for raiding. Walker considered changing the system when he first took office, but ultimately decided against it. He's not indicated whether this will be the budget where he attempts any kind of overhaul.
SELF INSURANCE: Walker has talked since 2013 about switching to a self-insurance system where the state would pay for benefits directly for about 250,000 state workers and family members instead of purchasing insurance from 17 HMOs. The Group Insurance Board, which oversees the $1.5 billion state employee insurance program, was scheduled to meet the day Walker delivers the budget to make a recommendation. Any change would have to be approved by the Legislature.
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