Walker to sign state budget Thursday in Neenah, issues 99 vetoes

Gov. Scott Walker delivers his state budget address Feb. 8, 2017, at the state Capitol in Madison. (WLUK/Courtney Ryan)

MADISON (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday vetoed 99 parts of the state budget, including a provision supported by Republican legislative leaders and educators that would have allowed low-spending school districts to raise more money from property taxes.

Walker released the vetoes a day before he planned to sign the budget into law at Tullar Elementary School in Neenah. The vetoes touched on nearly all parts of the massive $76 billion budget and resulted in trimming spending by $16.5 million over the next two years.

Walker said he vetoed that low-revenue schools provision because it would have resulted in schools being able to levy more in property taxes without voter input. The budget as it passed the Legislature increased the maximum that low-spending districts can spend from a combination of local property taxes and state aid per student from $9,100 to $9,300 this year and $9,400 the next.

The increased spending would have been paid for with a mixture of state aid and higher local property taxes. It was designed to address long-held complaints from mostly rural school districts.

The change was championed by public school advocates and the Republican co-chair of the Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, Rep. John Nygren, of Marinette. Nygren, reached by text Wednesday, said he had "plenty of thoughts" about the veto, but they were "probably not" publishable.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said it was disappointing that Walker's veto would cut school funding while a tax change primarily benefiting wealthy people remains.

"These vetoes demonstrate why Wisconsin residents feel like they're being left behind by a Republican Party that continues to favor the wealthy over working families," she said.

Before Walker issued the vetoes, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said it was "way too early" to know if lawmakers would try to override any of them. The Republican-controlled Legislature has never voted to override a Walker veto.

Walker also followed through on a series of vetoes he promised to three Republican senators to secure the passage of the budget. The biggest would immediately repeal the requirement that construction workers on state jobs be paid a prevailing wage, instead of having it take effect in a year.

He also cut $2.5 million to study interstate tolling, although that could still be pursued, and he also did away with changes that would have eliminated local control of rock quarries. He said changes that significant should be pursued with separate legislation.

The budget passed the Republican-controlled Legislature on Friday, 11-weeks after the July 1 due date. Spending continued at pre-deadline levels during the impasse. The Sept. 21 signature by Walker will make it the latest budget since 2007 when the Legislature was under split control. That year then-Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle signed it on Oct. 26.

The budget this year was delayed due to inter-party fighting among Republicans who couldn't agree on several key issues, including how to fix a $1 billion transportation funding gap. Ultimately they decided to largely follow Walker's plan to borrow more and delay projects.

Vos said that while the process of passing the budget was frustrating, the end product is a good one. The budget sends $639 million more to K-12 schools, an increase of nearly 6 percent, while freezing tuition across University of Wisconsin campuses, cutting taxes on smaller businesses and slightly reducing property taxes.

It would also raise fees on electric and hybrid car owners to help pay for road construction projects, eliminate the alternative minimum tax which primarily benefits the wealthy and expand enrollment in the private school voucher program.

Democrats have assailed the budget as not doing enough to help schools or the middle class.

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