Campaign 2018: Walker says he’d cut taxes, increase school funding in third term
After holding office for nearly eight years, Gov. Scott Walker is running for a third, and what he says would be a final term, saying he’s not done reforming the state. Walker, through his team, declined a request for a one-on-one interview with News 3 before the election, but reporter Jessica Arp took a look at where he stands on some issues based on multiple interviews done this campaign season.
Running against the state superintendent, Walker has rolled out education initiatives, including a change in public school funding that News 3 asked him about at an event in Janesville.
Arp: You’ve said that you want to fund schools by two-thirds at this point. Explain how you would pay for that. Where does the money come from?
Walker: Well, we have yet another budget surplus. We’ve done it eight years in a row. Remember, Jim Doyle gave us a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We’ve had a surplus every year. Two years ago, our budget included $11.5 billion for schools. That’s an all-time high. That’s the largest actual dollar investment in schools in state history. It’s only a slight jump up from where we were at two years ago. Remember, Tony Evers at the time called that budget a pro-kid budget. He said his priorities were aligned with our priorities. That’s what he said when he was running for his third term for superintendent. He obviously now says something different, but the facts remain. We were able to do that two years ago and still lower property taxes just like Tommy Thompson did. Years ago I voted for that budget when we funded schools at two-thirds and still reduced property taxes. We’re able to do that going forward.
Arp: In your last budget, you essentially eliminated the state portion of the property tax, which is why you talk about reducing property taxes for the state. How would you lower property taxes in an upcoming budget given that almost all of the remaining property tax comes from schools and local governments?
Walker: By keeping in place the property tax limits we’ve had in the past. Local governments– we continue to put historic levels of funding in so that those dollars can go in the classroom and support programs for student success. We did that in each of our budgets.
Arp: So how can you guarantee that, given that it’s essentially local governments and schools who will decide where property taxes are at?
Walker: Well, the limits in place have done that. That’s why not just this budget but previous budgets, that’s why property taxes went down, was because we put property tax limits in place. Those are things that we’re able to do. And because we give schools and local governments funding, it allows them to fund our key priorities without raising property taxes along the way. The key issue is leadership. Tony Evers talks a good game these days. He makes billions of dollars of promises. He promises every group just about everything imaginable. But he’s hasn’t shown how to lead on that for years. Before he was running for governor, he was advocating raising taxes, lifting property taxes and other things like that. I think that’s the clear contrast.
But Walker’s leadership has also been in question, as four former cabinet secretaries have publicly criticized his administration and leadership. Arp asked him about that, and how it affects his credibility, at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association debate.
“Jessica, to your specific question, it’s simple,” Walker said. “I’m not afraid to have people with diverse opinions in my cabinet. For years I had a cabinet member who wanted to raise the gas tax and I told voters clearly I would never raise the gas tax without an equal or greater reduction elsewhere and their tax burden overall. Even in addition to my cabinet, when I was in county government, I had a member of the cabinet there who worked for a Democrat in the United States Congress, and I even had a personal aide in the past who worked for Joe Lieberman, who was a running mate for Al Gore when he ran for president in 2000. I’m not afraid to have people with diverse opinions out there but what I always will do is be straight with the voters of the state of Wisconsin. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, and then I’ll follow up and do it.”
Walker will be on the Republican ticket with lieutenant governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch for the Tuesday, Nov. 6 election.
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