Like any Budget, the document drafted by the Walker Administration will have it’s share of golden nuggets and clunkers, too. Based on what we heard last night, here’s some of the quick takeaways for conservatives:
It includes an income tax cut.
Rather than flatten tax rates, Walker proposes to cut the bottom three rates, which actually widens the disparity. Moreover, although it is a step in the right direction, the cut itself is paltry.
He includes performance incentive grants for schools
So many will qualify for this carrot, the incentive becomes watered down.
His transportation package does not include increases in gas taxes or fees.
He is proposing hiring 180 additional engineers and support staff at the Department of Transportation.
Walker is following through on his plan to reform FoodShare, Unemployment Compensation and Medicaid.
To be fair, this is all good.
He keeps spending relatively in check and ends with a positive balance of $43 million.
The Budget is projected to end with a $188 million structural deficit.
The education reforms are already in trouble.
Behind closed doors, Senator Mike Ellis is going to pressure the insecurities of several of his colleagues to muster opposition to the School Choice changes. As I wrote previously, Ellis has been in the Senate for decades and he lives for moments like this where he can pull the strings of his fellow GOP Senators. He revels in these brief but consequential moments of relevance.
I can just hear him now. He will shape it as a call to arms to the Caucus to 'stand up for your school districts’ and oppose this 'bombshell dropped on us by the geniuses in the East Wing.’
In one-on-one discussions he’ll bad-mouth the Governor, but in closed caucus and other larger gatherings, he’ll shape the issue as Senators adhering to their oath to serve their constituents. 'It’s easy for the East Wing to drop these bombs, but as we saw last session, our butts have to cash the checks they write,’ he’ll bluster.
And he’ll flatter his cohorts as he pushes them. 'Sure these wet behind the ear kids with their iPhones and other gadgets can travel with the Governor from the mansion in Maple Bluff by police escort to Truax Field and hop on the King Air and jet from my district to yours and everywhere in between. But what the hell do they know? We are the ones that have to face the parents, the school boards and ourr district Administrators. For the Administration, this is political theory, for us it's real work. I’ve been here long before this Governor and will be here long after these kids cash out. I’m telling you now is the time for the Senate to do our job, be responsible and save the Governor—again.’
Ellis fancies himself as the only person in the state who understands the byzantine public school finance scheme. So he’ll trot out his blackboard and go old school on his colleagues, to show them the 'ripple effects this will have on schools in your district.’ Many Senators, defer to Ellis on school finance issues. He must know what he’s talking about, right? Hell, that Blackboard he trots out is older than some of the Senators he’s plying.
Direct –to-parents educational scholarships upset the status quo. The Senate, as a body, loves the status quo. They are the status quo.
Ellis will also find a few allies in the State Assembly, but they will be in numbers too small to have an impact.
Walker’s educational reform efforts will live or die in the Wisconsin State Senate, and as of this writing, their prospects are pretty dim.