Robin Vos Discusses Budget Passage

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Robin Vos Discusses Budget Passage

Premiere Date: 
June 20, 2013

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks about the biennial budget approved this week.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Robin Vos:

I would have enjoyed the opportunity to defend our budget because I am proud of what's in this budget. It's good for Wisconsin families. It stands up for middle class families.

Peter Barca:

And your budget will double down again and have the same approach, the same failed approach that has put our economy in the ditch.

Frederica Freyberg:

Assembly leadership reacts to their passage of the budget bill. With a one-vote senate margin, the budget bill is now on its way to Governor Scott Walker. I'm Frederica Freyberg.

The nearly $70 billion budget flew through the assembly midweek. Democrats there prepared more than 200 amendments, but then in a surprise twist, decided not to take up any of them. It’s a move Republicans dismissed as a political prank. Representative Sandy Pasch defended the Dems' choice.

Sandy Pasch:

This is incredibly serious. This wasn't a stunt. This wasn't a joke. The joke is on the people of the state of Wisconsin.

Frederica Freyberg:

Over in the senate on Thursday, some of the hottest debate surrounded the statewide expansion of school vouchers. Now, the final bill includes that expansion, and it also gives families who send their children to private schools tax deductions. The budget also increases per-pupil spending for public schools. Other items in the budget include income tax cuts and shifting nearly 90,000 BadgerCare Plus enrollees over to federal health insurance exchanges, while rejecting federal money for expending Medicaid. It repeals residency rules for public workers, but requires police and fire employees to live within 15 miles. The budget bill also allows the governor to sell state assets, including things like university properties, roads and parking lots. Assembly speaker Robin Vos shepherded the budget through the joint finance committee and then through the assembly. He joins us now from Kenosha, and thanks so much for doing so, Mr. Speaker.

Robin Vos:

Happy to be here, Fred.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, detail for us what's good in this budget for Wisconsin?

Robin Vos:

There’s so many good things in this budget. First of all, I'm very proud of Governor Walker for introducing a budget that was balanced, that had the right priorities, and at the end of the day, it’s one we could improve upon. The joint finance committee listened to literally hundreds of people testifying, and their comments were focused on main areas that we also put our priorities into, trying to make sure that we had money for public schools. When the surplus came about, we put more money into public schools, and also doubled the size of Governor Walker’s income tax cut, so that every single person in the state who pays income taxes will see a reduction over the course of the next year. We made sure that the tuition freeze, once we discovered the billion dollar slush fund in the university, was shared with students by having a tuition freeze that's going be able to help families across the state save money. And ultimately, we also were able to put more money into public schools. We know that at the beginning of process Senators Olson and Ellis wanted as a goal to try to get $150 more per student into the budget for public schools. We were able to accomplish that all at the same time by also having a statewide expansion of school choice, smaller than I would have liked, but definitely one that will be groundbreaking for the future.

Frederica Freyberg:

How do you respond to critics, even within your own caucus, who decry this budget though for turning a surplus into a $500 million structural deficit going forward, and one that boosts state borrowing?

Robin Vos:

Well, first of all, a structural deficit is based on the fact, as the fiscal bureau describes it, no economic growth will occur. So it's kind of the absolute worst case scenario, which has never happened, even in the worst of recessions over the course of the past 20 years. So we know that economic growth will occur. I think it will be even heightened by the fact that we have a larger income tax cut for families across the state. But remembering that this structural deficit is the second lowest on record, only dwarfed by the one that we had last session, because of all the reforms we put into place. We know that our good government has worked it in the past and we know that economic growth is going to happen. So the structural deficit is the second smallest, as I mentioned, and not one that we're concerned about. Borrowing has always been a frustration for Republicans. We know that the credit card was driven up by Governor Doyle. We have worked very hard to restrain bonding, but we're also at a time with historically low interest rates, so it makes sense to refinance our debt, do it in a way that saves interest, and also invest in infrastructure, especially roads and highways, where we know are required for our economy to flourish.

Frederica Freyberg:

Why does this budget exempt future budgets from the law that prevents lawmakers from passing bills that spend money that exceed projected revenue? If you're kind of not worried about this structural–

Robin Vos:

It doesn’t exempt future budgets. Right, it doesn't exempts future budgets. It only exempts this one, because we have a huge surplus that we're giving back. The way that the law was structured, it basically said that you could only spend the amount of revenue that you took in. We had a surplus. We wanted to return that to taxpayers and invest it in public schools, so that’s why on a one-time basis we said, notwithstanding that previous statute, we wanted to go and give the money back to people and schools.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, another little barb here, but I'm sure you're able to respond. The Wisconsin Council on Families say this today, “Nobody who voted for this budget bill can legitimately claim they care about kids.” How do you respond to that?

Robin Vos:

Well, I think that's some hyperbole, and of course for interest groups, special interest groups, that’s their job, to try to create chaos, a ruckus. But this budget does a whole lot of things that are good for families. Nothing more important than keeping money in the hands of every mom and dad across the state who has to figure out a way to balance their own family budget. We put more money into things like child support enforcement, making sure that we have good public schools with every single child in the state, getting an opportunity to have a better school in their future. Most of them will be in a public school, which is why that's our single largest investment in the state budget. And it also is a much larger increase than the other opportunity for kids to learn, which would be in a private school either by the choice program or by a very small tax deduction that we gave to every family who choose to educate their kids in a private or religious school.

Frederica Freyberg:

Much has been made, as you know, about the non-fiscal items in this budget, like bail bondsmen or DNA collection upon arrest. Why do those things get put into this budget?

Robin Vos:

Well, first of all, every one of the aspects of considering non-fiscal policy by the fiscal bureau, in some way does impact the finances of a family or our state government or local government. Remember, their definition of fiscal policy is something that will only impact the state budget. As an example, bail bondsmen are put in there as a way to help make court systems more efficient. Once again, a totally voluntary program. No county or no judge has to ever utilize it, but looking for ways to increase the show rates in court, at the same time saving on police overtime, and additional court costs for people not showing up to court. That's definitely got a fiscal impact for taxpayers. Other things in the budget have the exact same kind of an idea.

Frederica Freyberg:

We need to leave it there. I know you won’t answer this. Just a couple of seconds left. What kind of vetoes have you heard the governor might make?

Robin Vos:

I hope the governor will make very few. We have been in concert with him, his chief of staff, with the entire administration to try to make sure this budget is the best for Wisconsin. And I really think it will be in a vast majority of circumstances.

Frederica Freyberg:

Speaker Robin Vos, thank you very much.

Robin Vos:

Thanks, Fred. Have a good day. 


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