Walker, Dems Spar Over Projected Structural Deficit

By John Forester | September 9, 2014

From WisPolitics . . .

Gov. Scott Walker is downplaying a new projection that pegs the state’s structural deficit at $1.8 billion, while Dems are accusing the guv and Republicans of reckless budgeting.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau sent lawmakers a new projection yesterday, showing declining revenues had driven the structural deficit for 2015-17 to $1.8 billion from a $624 million projection in May.


During a stop in Waukesha yesterday, Walker insisted revenue growth would more than make up for the projected deficit. He sidestepped a question about where that revenue would come from, instead stressing average revenue growth over the past decade had equaled that mark.


“It’s not a new number. It’s new to the media, but it’s literally not a new number. They just took the number they reported on and applied it to the future budget,” Walker said of the LFB projection.


Dems accused Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature of having “squandered” a surplus.

“While virtually every state in the nation has a surplus due to the improvements in the national economy, Wisconsin now becomes one of the select group of states that squandered it through irresponsible budgeting,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca said in a conference call with reporters.


The state would be better off if it had followed the Democrats’ plan to use the projected surplus, Barca said. That included doubling the deposit into the state’s rainy day fund, increasing funding for worker training and directing targeted tax breaks to the middle class. He also said the budget would be in better fiscal shape had Walker accepted federal money to expand Medicaid.


Sen. Jennifer Shilling, the ranking Democrat on the Joint Finance Committee, said the projections paint a “dire picture” of the state’s fiscal health and accused Republicans of denying there is a problem.


“We have a fiscal storm on the horizon, and it seems my colleagues are unwilling to admit we have a problem,” Shilling said, adding that Legislature can’t address the issue “as long as Republicans continue to ignore the facts.” 


Read the LFB memo here.


See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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Walker Campaign Declines SAA Request; Burke Campaign Says “Yes”

By John Forester | September 9, 2014

As you know, last Thursday the SAA asked the Walker and Burke campaigns to respond in writing to several questions on current education issues impacting Wisconsin public schools and public school children.

On Saturday, the Burke campaign responded via email thanking the SAA for reaching out to the campaign and promised to have their written responses to the SAA by the deadline of September 19th.  On Monday, we received a form letter from the Walker campaign manager declining to participate.

The SAA is moving forward with its process for engaging the candidates.  When we receive additional information from either of the candidates, we will forward it to the SAA membership.  Stay tuned.

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AEF Releases School Finance Study

By John Forester | September 8, 2014

The Association for Equity in Funding (AEF) has released its much-anticipated school finance study, which examines the Wisconsin school funding formula to determine whether the funding formula fulfilled its mandate to provide for a sound, basic education as defined by Vincent v. Voight (2000) ands statute.  The AEF study and press release are linked below for your review and information.

It is vitally important to note that this study does look at specific districts to compare and contrast the level of funding that they receive to serve students with disabilities, ELL students and economically disadvantaged students.  However, it is not the intent of the AEF to claim that any district is overfunded and should have any funding taken from them.  Rather, the districts that appear to be funded appropriately should be held up as the models for the state funding system.  The goal of the study is to move the state toward an adequate funding system that meets the needs of all students in all districts.

According to AEF President, and Neillsville School District Administrator, John Gaier, “Ultimately what the study reveals is that Wisconsin’s funding formula no longer adequately funds all school districts.  This has resulted in widening gaps of opportunities for students and communities.  Low property value communities are shouldering a greater burden for funding local school districts.  A better funding system is needed for Wisconsin school students to have the opportunities for them to be college and career ready, regardless of life circumstances or the community in which they live.”

AEF Funding Study

AEF Press Release

Please direct questions about the study to John Gaier at the Neillsville School District, jgaier@neillsville.k12.wi.us or (715) 743-3323.

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SAA Submits Questions to Walker, Burke Campaigns

By John Forester | September 5, 2014

Yesterday, the SAA asked the Walker and Burke campaigns to respond in writing to several questions on current education issues impacting Wisconsin public schools and public school children.  Our intention is to forward the candidate responses to the entire SAA membership as soon as they are received.

What’s more, for each candidate that provides written responses to these questions, the SAA will offer to videotape the candidate for a 5-10 minute message to the SAA membership based on the candidate’s written responses to our questions.  This process for engaging the gubernatorial candidates was recommended by the SAA Executive Committee and approved by the SAA Legislative Committee.

We have asked the candidates to provide their written responses by Friday, September 19, 2014.  Stay tuned.

See the questions here.

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Walker, Burke Sharpen Contrast on Vouchers

By John Forester | September 4, 2014

In a follow-up to yesterday’s voucher announcement  by Walker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that Gov. Scott Walker and Mary Burke on Wednesday sharpened the contrast between them on taxpayer-funded private voucher schools, with the GOP governor proposing a significant expansion and his Democratic challenger saying she would eliminate the new statewide program.

Read more here.

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State May Need A Budget Repair Bill

By John Forester | September 4, 2014

From WisPolitics . . .

The state may need a budget repair bill before the current fiscal year is up unless its finances improve, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Still, the nonpartisan budget arm of the Legislature noted the Walker administration can rein in spending. The LFB also said a better picture of the state’s finances won’t be available until October, when the administration releases a more comprehensive report on fiscal year 2013-14.

The Department of Revenue reported last week tax collections for 2013-14 were $281.2 million below estimates. The administration is required to introduce a budget repair bill if expenditures exceed collections by more than 0.5 percent and the shortfall can’t be addressed through tools available to DOA. But because of a projected balance of $443.2 million in the general fund for 2013-14, that trigger won’t be hit for the first year of the biennium.

However, current projections show a shortfall of $115.8 million for 2014-15, exceeding the 0.5 percent threshold of $79.2 million.

The Walker administration has said it plans to manage the current shortfall through available tools. If revenues improve over current projections, that could also eliminate the need for a repair bill.

Read the memo here.

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Article on Voucher Schools “Shocks the Conscience”

By John Forester | September 4, 2014

This article from The Progressive was forwarded to me by an SAA member under the subject line “Shocks the Conscience.”  In reading this article, you will find many disturbing items about the physical conditions of the featured private voucher schools, the curriculum, as well as the role of voucher schools as part of a real estate portfolio.

 

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More Analysis of State Revenue Shortfall

By John Forester | September 3, 2014

The Wisconsin Budget Project released an interesting analysis regarding last Thursday’s announced $281 million revenue shortfall for the state of Wisconsin.  And, as I nosed around the Capitol today, there was clear concern that the problems may run deeper than the political spin doctors indicated late last week.  And why do we care?  Deeper state fiscal problems mean even less money available to support children in Wisconsin’s cash-strapped school districts.

I have been very impressed with the work of the Wisconsin Budget Project of late.  We are indeed fortunate to have such a resource in Wisconsin.

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Walker Says He’d Support Lifting Voucher Caps

By John Forester | September 3, 2014

Erin Richards is reporting in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that Governor Scott Walker said that he would support lifting the voucher cap statewide if he is reelected.  Walker also ripped his challenger, Democrat Mary Burke, on education issues.

Read more here.

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Dems, GOP Fight It Out Over Revenue Numbers

By John Forester | August 29, 2014

From WisPolitics…

Dems are calling the latest revenue figures a sign the state’s budget is in “crisis,” while Republicans are stressing the state still has a surplus even after revenues fell below expectations by $281 million last year.

Both sides are fighting it out over the latest Department of Revenue numbers. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau had projected revenue growth of 1 percent for 2013-14 even with the Republicans’ tax cuts and withholding table changes factored in. That would have amounted to an increase in revenue of $143.6 million. Instead, revenues came in $137.5 million below collections for the previous year.

The state was projected to end the fiscal year on June 30 with a net balance of $659 million. While the declining revenue numbers will likely drop that, the full picture of the state’s finances won’t be known until this fall. That’s when the Walker administration will add in expenditures to the revenue side.

Without improved revenue collections or spending cuts, the state could face a deficit at the end of the current two-year budget cycle on June 30, 2015.

The Walker administration says a budget repair bill isn’t needed and expects to manage the drop in revenues by reining in expenses and other measures.

See the DOR release here.

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