Governor Issues Budget Instructions to State Agency Heads; Leaves Window Open for K-12 Funding Increases

In a July 25 letter to state agency heads Gov. Scott Walker directed state agencies to “maintain their overall fiscal year 2017-18 and 2018-19 GPR budgets at the fiscal year 2016-17 adjusted base.” Translation: “Most state agencies should submit budget requests for the next two years that don’t spend any more money than they were allotted this year.”

Yet despite the general call for “zero growth” in appropriations, an attachment to the governor’s letter indicates there will be certain exceptions, including for aid to K-12 public schools, cost increases for Medicaid, the state prison system and institutions run by the state Department of Health Services.

Gov. Walker also issued similar “no-increase” budget instructions in 2014 and 2012.

One potential reason for optimism about K-12 funding is that in his letter to agency heads, Gov. Walker also wrote, “In order to achieve a skilled workforce, we need to provide tools so every student succeeds. As I stated in my State of the State address this year, we need to capture savings by realigning state government through reform and reallocate these savings to our K-12 system to keep our state’s education programs strong. To build on our commitment to student success, we must extend our tuition freeze. This will make our universities affordable and accessible. These two items will help our young people develop the skills they will need fore career and life.” (Emphasis added.)

It is important that school leaders who have concerns about school funding communicate those concerns to the governor and lawmakers as the budget is being developed.

State agency budget requests are due Thursday, September 15.

However, in past budget cycles, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has not submitted its entire budget request by Sept. 15, but has been allowed to wait until after it certifies general aid payment amounts to school districts on Oct. 15 to submit its requests related to aid to K-12 schools. This helps ensure that the DPI’s calculations and those of the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which does detailed analyses of state budget bill for lawmakers, are aligned. This makes comparing the impact of proposed changes to K-12 funding in the budget bill much easier.

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