PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. - It's official. Governor Scott Walker signs into law the state's spending plan for the next two years.
This budget certainly comes with less controversy than the last two-year budget. But it still fails to win over all legislators, even while promising more money for education and tax cuts.
The Governor held the signing in front of about 200 people at Catalyst Exhibits in Pleasant Prairie, near the state's southern border with Illinois, this afternoon.
The location is symbolic, since the former Illinois based company relocated to Wisconsin since Walker took office. And it highlights the governor's push to create jobs—one of the five priorities he says his budget addresses—along with developing the workforce, transforming education, investing the infrastructure and reforming government.
"This is a budget for the hardworking taxpayers of this state," said Walker before signing the budget Sunday. "What the State Assembly and the State Senate passed is so fundamentally aligned with what I'm signing here today, it's important to focus on that."
The new budget cuts income taxes by roughly $650 million over the next two years, giving residents more money to spend. It also invests about $6.4 billion on the state's infrastructure, which will help to create jobs.
"We need to have the roads and the bridges and the ports and the freight rail lines and the airports to have one of the best intermodal systems in the country," Walker said.
In areas like public education, the state will spend $380 million in new funds for public schools, increasing its per-student spending by $300. At the same time, the controversial school voucher program will be expanded across the state; up to 500 students in the first year and 1,000 the next.
"You should have the choice to pick the best opportunity," said Walker of giving parents option of where to send their kids to school.
But his budgetary victory wasn't met without protest.
"If we don't have education, what do we have?" said Mary Palmer of Racine.
Palmer is one of about one dozen protesters who came out, speaking against the Governor's education plan, saying it falls short.
"If he's concerned about bettering education, for the majority, then let's get the public school system in line," said Palmer.
Work requirements for food stamps will be tightened and weekly job-search requirements for unemployment will be increased; all while pumping $31 million into training programs.
"It's about getting people back to work," said Walker. "It's not about making it harder to get government assistance. It's about making it easier to get a job."
Not everything in Governor Walker's budget passed his muster. He did use his extensive veto power on 57 items. Two of those stopped the creation of a bounty hunter program in the state and a provision that would have kicked an investigative journalism center off the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
The 2013-15 state budget goes into effect July 1st.
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