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Walker on statewide tour after budget address, critics take aim at cuts to UW System, mission statement proposal

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MADISON (WITI) -- Governor Scott Walker unveiled his $68 billion two-year budget proposal at the Capitol in Madison on Tuesday evening, February 3rd, and on Wednesday, reaction was pouring in. Here are some of the highlights: Governor Walker wants to remove an enrollment cap on the School Choice program while keeping funding for public schools flat over the next two years. He has also proposed cutting funding to the University of Wisconsin System by 13 percent, while giving the 26 campuses more freedom from state laws and oversight. The plan would result in property taxes on a typical home dropping by about $10 over two years.

Governor Walker set out on a statewide tour one day after delivering his budget address to bring his message to the masses. He is touting a budget plan that would cut property taxes, but his critics are focused on his proposed cuts to education.

"Our plan will use common sense reforms," Governor Walker said in his budget address Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, Walker took a bus tour that took him from La Crosse, to Eau Claire, to Stevens Point, to De Pere and finally to Oconomowoc.

"Maintains our good fiscal standing -- a balanced budget by the end of the term," Governor Walker said.

Walker is defending his controversial budget plan which includes $300 million in cuts to the UW System and in exchange, he says he would give universities more autonomy.

"If they were able to get out from underneath the thumb of state bureacracy, that they could be very effective in saving money for the (UW-System)," Walker said.

The plan is being called a reckless attack on higher education by Walker's critics -- like Robert Kraig with Citizen Action Wisconsin.

"There's no ability to plan for this.  All of a sudden, they're just gashing this budget.  State support for the UW System has been going down for a long time. It's not like it's been high at all," Kraig said.

News broke Wednesday that Walker also wants to change the language of the UW-System's mission statement -- known as the "Wisconsin Idea," which had tried to create ethical, well-rounded, responsible citizens who can think for themselves -- to essentially a job-training program "to meet the state's workforce needs."

Walker's press secretary issued this statement to FOX6 News Wednesday evening:

"The Wisconsin Idea will continue to thrive.  This was a drafting error.  The final version of the budget will include the Wisconsin Idea."

"Learning's important, but most importantly it's a chance for people to get the education they need to succed in the workforce and in life," Governor Walker said.

"We need a world class educational system, from kindergarten all the way through PhD in this state.  We've had that.  It's been one of our pride and joys.  It's amazing that Walker can say all is well, and then can be gutting those generational investments," Kraig said.

Walker's budget also contains controversial proposals to drug test adult, childless welfare recipients and to lift the cap on voucher schools -- essentially expanding the program statewide. Both of those are topics likely to see heated debate in the state legislature.

READ IT: Highlights of Governor Walker's two-year budget proposal, as issued by the Governor's Office.

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