One of Governor Walker's top advisers stopped in Wausau Monday night to answer people's questions about his 2013-2015 budget proposal.
The secretary for the Dept. of Administration, Mike Huebsch, gave an overview of the spending plan to a crowd of a couple dozen on the UW-Marathon Co. campus.
"The Governor has set aside money to invest in start up companies, companies that are just building and coming out, and has asked the Legislature to devise a program whereby we can invest in those start up companies," Huebsch said. "The next Bill Gates could be sitting in a garage in Rothschild."
The budget also sets aside nearly $100 million in new funding for work force efforts. But Monday night, some worry history will repeat itself. North central Wis. has lost several major employers in the past two years. They don't want that to happen again.
"When you described the goals of the budget, supposedly, those were the original goals of Gov. Walker's first budget pretty much," said Marathon County Board member John Durham. "But to me, there was a real disconnect. It was jobs, jobs, jobs, and I didn't see anything coming up about jobs in the legislation that crossed the Governor's desk, for like almost a year and a half."
Huebsch says government doesn't create jobs, it creates an environment for jobs, and one of the ways the budget aims to improve the local economy is with the proposed income tax cut. Under the measure, a family of four earning $80,000 a year will save around $106 annually.
"By investing back in people and the citizens of Wausau, they're going to be able to use that money to be able to invest in their home or their business or their family," Huebsch said. "And that in the collective of that will help bolster the economy and create jobs."
Education was also a reoccurring topic at the meeting. Former teacher state Rep. Mandy Wright (D-85th District) worries the accountability levels for public schools will be far less than what schools in north central Wis. perform at under the revamped model.
"I really don't want to see the system change," Rep. Wright said. "I'm concerned about voucher schools."
The Governor has set aside $227 million in new funding for K-12 education. But it will be mostly performance-based--that includes expanding the state's school voucher program. However, Huebsch says the expansion won't reach Wausau, and in the districts where it will be put in place, like Milwaukee, it's desperately needed.
"In each one of those school districts where vouchers will be available, there are at least 1,000 students in a failing school," Huebsch said. "We can't just write off that generation."
Right now the Fiscal Bureau is developing its analysis of the budget. Then the Finance Committee will take it out for public hearings around the state to get the public's input. The Committee will come back to Madison and most likely change some parts before the Senate and the Assembly vote on it.