Education, Transportation, Workforce Development Top Walker’s WI Priorities

Gov. Scott Walker laid out his state biennial budget proposal Wednesday, calling for significant increases in education, transportation, tax relief and workforce development.

The $76.1 billion budget includes $592 million in tax and fee cuts, including a proposed tuition cut for University of Wisconsin System students.

Technical college students would see a tuition freeze over the biennium, paid for with $5 million in the budget. The budget would also give more money to Wisconsin Fast Forward, a worker training grant program.

Walker proposes putting more than $10 million in training for students. The Early College Credit Program would get $2.9 million to help students receive college credit while in high school. The Special Education Transitional Jobs Program would receive $7.6 million towards awards for school districts who help students with disabilities successfully obtain employment.

The budget allocates about $6.1 billion for transportation funding, including a $40 million increase in general transportation aids to counties and municipalities. 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 transportation budget gap, Walker has said he will be delaying work on about $500 million worth of ongoing major highway projects and borrowing about that much. Walker’s budget plan boosts funding for maintenance of state highways and transportation funding for local units of government. It calls for $500 million in transportation borrowing, down from $850 million in the last state budget.

The budget announcement follows the release of a sharply critical state audit of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation last month. It found the department dramatically underestimated the cost of major highway projects by failing to account for inflation and other factors, with costs on 16 projects ballooning by more than $3 billion since lawmakers approved them.

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