Still, they pledged to prevent education cuts the governor had proposed for next year.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Wednesday lawmakers would restore the $127 million Walker proposed cutting from K-12 education for the first year of the 2015-17 budget. Governor Walker also endorsed the move.
Rep. John Nygren, who co-chairs the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, said he expects Republicans to redirect more than $100 million from a property tax reduction program (school levy tax credit) to help restore some funding to K-12.
The state spent $747.4 million on the property tax relief program this year. Walker had proposed increasing that amount by $105.6 million next year, which translates to a roughly $5 property tax cut on an average home. Republicans want to shift that amount into the second year of the biennium, still maintaining the property tax reduction but pushing the cost onto future budgets.
Speaker Vos said it’s unlikely Assembly Republicans will go along with Walker’s plan to expand the state’s private school voucher program. Walker had proposed lifting the program’s statewide enrollment cap of 1,000 students. Vos said Republicans want to guarantee students already receiving vouchers don’t get a funding cut.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said Wednesday the governor “will continue to work with legislative leaders to protect public school funding and ensure it remains whole.” Walker later tweeted a similar statement saying “we will fully fund K-12 schools in this budget.”
She did not elaborate on how the state would make up the $127 million K-12 cut for next year. The budget cuts $127 million in per-pupil categorical aid to schools in the first year but adds $142 million in the second year of the budget. It also increases general school aid in the second year by $108.1 million.
When the committee of 12 Republicans and four Democrats completes its review, the full Senate and Assembly will separately take up the measure, and each could make further changes. The budget typically wraps up by July 1, when the state’s new fiscal year begins.