Local Democratic and Republican parties react to budget proposal - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Local Democratic and Republican parties react to budget proposal

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Wednesday night, Governor Walker revealed his $68-billion budget proposal.  It included an income tax cut, and also an expansion of school vouchers.

Thursday, WQOW News 18 spoke with, Eau Claire County Republican and Democratic parties for reaction.

Eau Claire County Republican Party Chair, Brian Westrate, says, "I think that the governor has approached this budget process from a very solid standpoint of getting people back to work, maximizing the private sector and utilizing the tax dollars we have."

"I was very disappointed by it, I think he could have gone much further both in education and health care and other things that we really need to spur on the economy," says Eau Claire County Democratic Party Chair, Beverly Wickstrom.

Governor Walker's budget plan, includes a proposal we've know about for awhile, reforming Medicaid.  Eligibility standards would be tightened. Wickstrom says, "I think the net result is that a lot more people are going to be off insurance as the BadgerCare numbers are cut down."

The governor believes many people will access insurance through the federal health exchange, which opens up next year. Westrate says, "I think that the proposed changes to Medicaid funding and how the state interacts with that, I think are fabulous."

On Wednesday, the governor revealed he wants to hire 710 new state employees. Westrate was surprised to see that. He says, "Pension systems, I think, are an antiquated idea that our society can no longer afford, and that's certainly true at the government level."

Wickstrom says, "That's a very small number and again it doesn't come close to compensating for the loss of employees in the last cycle."

The budget proposal would boost UW-System funding by $181 million.  Westrate says the system needs to take a hard look at how money is spent on training the next generation of workers. He says, "I mean if you want to go to a private school and get a degree in something that no one will pay you for, god bless you. But, if you want to have a taxpayer subsidy for your college education, which it is huge, per student, than I think we have the legitimate right to say, are you learning something that society needs."

There was also a proposal to remove the residency laws that allow local governments to require workers to live in their municipality or school district. "Frequently things that don't belong in a budget are slipped into a budget, so, that's one of those things that happened here," says Wickstrom.

All Chippewa Falls city employees who serve as a department head are required to live in the city. That includes positions like city clerk, police or fire chief, the city planner, and city engineer to name a few.

In the Chippewa Falls School District only the superintendent is required to live in the same city.

In Eau Claire, neither the city or school district have residency rules in place. WQOW News 18 did find out the city used to have a rule but the city council removed it back in 1998.  

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