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Walker Budget Would Expand School Choice, Cut Taxes

5:27 PM, Mar 1, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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In Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's budget speech, which just got underway, the governor announces plans to cut taxes and expand school choice--two proposals that could become new flashpoints in Wisconsin's budget battle. 

Here's Walker on school choice: 

In addition, we will expand choice and charter programs to insure that every kid gets a great education – no matter what zip code they live in.  We lift the cap on the number of students eligible to participate in the Milwaukee parental choice program and phase out the income eligibility limits.  And across the state, we allow any University of Wisconsin system four-year campus to create a charter school.

On tax cuts: 

We will also encourage job growth as I fulfill a campaign promise to lower taxes on those who invest in Wisconsin-based businesses and do so for an extended period of time.  We will do this by eliminating the capital gains tax for investors in Wisconsin companies that provide jobs for our people.  And we include tax relief for employers who hire more people to work in our state.  

In this budget, we provide real tax relief for homeowners across the state by implementing property tax reform that locks in property tax levies at the local level.  Time and time again, I’ve heard from Wisconsinites who are doing more with less and making sacrifices to keep their families going.  Good people like the retired couple on a fixed income or the new parents paying for daycare and the mortgage on their first house or the middle-class working family where mom and dad still have jobs, but keeping them meant taking a pay freeze.  All of them, and others like them across Wisconsin, need true property tax relief and this budget delivers. 

Walker campaigned on tax cuts, but now that's he's specifically announced which taxes he'll cut, expect Democrats to open up a new line of attack: Walker's planning on cutting taxes for businesses at the same time he's reducing teachers' benefits. That could be a tough sell.

As for the school choice proposal, that's something teachers' union members have opposed for decades. But it remains to be seen whether they want to pick a fight over this issue or stick to pounding Walker on collective bargaining, etc.

Below is the full transcript of Walker's budget speech, as prepared for delivery.

Speaker Fitzgerald, Speaker Pro Tem Kramer, President Ellis, Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Minority Leader Barca, Supreme Court Justices, Constitutional Officers, tribal leaders, members of the Cabinet, distinguished guests, members of the Legislature, and most importantly, fellow citizens of Wisconsin.

Each and every one of us gathered in the chamber today hold a diverse set of beliefs – beliefs that we are passionate about sharing - and that serve to guide our actions. Each of us has a vision for a better tomorrow in Wisconsin. 

But we all share something in common -- an unrivaled passion for this state and the people who call it home.  We all want Wisconsin to be the very best that it can be.  Yet, -- because our experiences are unique and our beliefs diverse -- our paths may diverge as we tackle today’s challenges.  But even at the height of our differences, we can and must keep our promise to people of Wisconsin that they will always come first.        

Democracy does not just expect differences, it demands them.  It’s the manner in which we discuss and resolve those differences that leads to bold solutions and innovative reforms.  I ask that we continue to be mindful of our differences – as well our similarities – in the coming days, weeks and months.  Above all, let us not lose sight of the fact that we were each elected to represent the people of this state by participating in our democratic process.

I applaud the State Assembly and those in the State Senate who are here today for not losing sight of that.

Over the past few weeks, a great deal of attention has been focused on Wisconsin.  That’s ok because freedom thrives each time there is a passionate debate in our society.  Passion and civility can go hand-in-hand and that’s what’s on display here in Wisconsin.  

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