Lawmakers passed several minor bills to expand opportunity for college students, but did not address the issue of helping students who graduate with a large amount of student loan debt.
Wisconsin state lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session this month, after passing several bills affecting education. Several proposals that received a significant amount of media coverage did not pass.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides funding for states to expand health insurance coverage for low-income adults who have income below 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL). That part of the ACA gave Wisconsin a great opportunity to close a very large gap in BadgerCare – coverage for “childless adults” (adults who aren’t custodial parents of a dependent child).
The budget bill as amended by Joint Finance is a litany of missed opportunities. It benefits the wealthy few while shortchanging children and families by failing to address the most pressing needs of our communities, our economy, and our collective future.
Following a biennium in which the Youth Aids Allocation was reduced by about 17%(about 10% of which was a permanent reduction that becomes the “base” for 2013-15 and about $7 million that was “lapsed” back to the general fund) two of the three juvenile correctional institutions (JCI) were closed, and the daily rates charged to counties were increased, the 2013-15 proposal regrettably does not restore all of the reductions while still increasing the daily charges to counties for services.
Governor Walker has proposed a two-year budget that significantly expands resources for voucher and charter schools, and provides a large increase in spending for assessment of pupils and schools. At first glance, it appears to also give Wisconsin’s public schools a raise in general funding, but a closer look reveals that this is largely an illusion.
Increasing health care coverage is an important step in improving the health of Wisconsinites.
Unfortunately, the Governor’s budget decreases coverage by ending BadgerCare for about 89,000 parents
and 6,000 childless adults over the poverty level. This was done in order to add to BadgerCare about
80,000 childless adults with income below the federal poverty level (FPL).
Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal related to child care and early learning is disappointing. For those hoping for a significant strengthening of YoungStar and adjustments in Wisconsin Shares payment policies will find little to cheer about, except for a modest change in the YoungStar tiered reimbursement system.
Two years ago the Wisconsin Legislature approved YoungStar with strong bipartisan support. This was a prudent investment to improve early learning for children from low-income working families receiving Wisconsin Shares subsidy payments.
Wisconsin should devote additional resources to collecting unpaid taxes that are owed to the
state. Increasing the amount of money and staff devoted to enforcing state tax laws would
increase the amount of revenue available to fund vital public services and also reduce the unfair burden on citizens who already pay the
taxes they legally owe.