MADISON (WITI) -- Gov. Scott Walker delivered his 2013 budget address at the Capitol in Madison on Wednesday evening, February 20th -- calling for an income tax cut and an expansion of the school voucher program.
Gov. Walker characterized his budget as an "ambitious plan" to help the people of Wisconsin live the American dream.
"Our focus is simple: more prosperity, better performance and true independence," Gov. Walker said.
In his second budget address, Gov. Walker laid out his priorities and defended his policies.
Two years ago, Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion deficit, and Gov. Walker's plan included steep cuts to health care and education.
"It wasn't easy, but we're turning Wisconsin around," Gov. Walker said.
Gov. Walker touted the state's $420 million surplus and said at least part of it should be returned to taxpayers.
"The hardworking taxpayers of this state helped to create the budget surplus, so it is only right that we put more money back into your hands. Over the next decade, this will lower income taxes $1.7 billion," Gov. Walker said.
Gov. Walker said a family of four making $40,000 a year would save more than $270 on its tax bill.
"I want to cut taxes over and over and over again until we are leading the country in economic recovery," Gov. Walker said.
Wisconsin's economic recovery in terms of job creation has been slow.
"As we work to create more jobs, we need people with the skills to fill the jobs. Our budget includes nearly $100 million in new state support for workforce development," Gov. Walker said.
Gov. Walker announced new spending on transportation.
"We make a $6.4 billion investment in our transportation infrastructure in this budget supporting roads, bridges, buses, freight rail, airports and yes, ports. A good transportation system is good for jobs," Gov. Walker said.
Gov. Walker also mentioned his controversial plan to expand the state's voucher system to any community where two schools receive grades of "D" or "F" on state report cards.
"Since wealthy families have a choice because they can pay to send their children to a private school, we give low income and middle class families an opportunity to also choose a viable alternative for their sons and daughters," Gov. Walker said.
The two-year budget will be discussed and debated for about three months, before the Legislature votes on it in June.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party released the following statement in response to Gov. Walker's budget address:
"Following is the statement of Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate in response to the introduction of Scott Walker's biennial budget.
Scott Walker has spent the last several weeks on campaign swings throughout our state hoping that the press and public have amnesia. He wants Wisconsin to forget the unnecessary and damaging cuts to education, infrastructure and healthcare that have had demonstrable consequences: The second-worst economic climate in the nation. Shuttered classrooms, record debt, less access to healthcare and a 42nd ranking in job creation.
Tonight, Walker once again laid out a divisive budget that favors corporate campaign donors and out-of-state special interests at the expense of our middle class families. The only big "innovation" of this budget is that he makes schoolchildren instead of workers the political pawns of the moment.
Walker is calling it a budget for the middle-class, but a REAL middle-class budget invests in education, healthcare and a jobs plan that increases access to worker training, access to capital for small businesses and incentivizes buying Wisconsin and buying American.
After Wisconsinites gave Legislative Democrats substantially more votes than Republicans, Walker had a chance to pursue a moderate path that strengthened education and Badgercare, and closed the skills gap that he shamefully widened. Instead, the Walker budget continues on the wrong path of shortchanging public education, harming job creation, growing Wisconsin's debt. continuing his war on women, and weakening the economic security of Wisconsin's middle class.
Wisconsin's motto used to be "Forward." Given this special interest budget, it is more aptly changed to, "Downward.""