Committee members react to big budget decisions - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Committee members react to big budget decisions

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The state budget is now on its way to the Assembly for debate. A late night Tuesday turned into an early morning Wednesday as the Joint Finance Committee saved the big budget issues for last.

The committee voted to cut income taxes by about $650 million over the next two years. It's almost double what Governor Scott Walker originally proposed.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), a member of the Joint Finance Committee who pushed for bigger cuts says everyone will see the impact. "I mean, primarily it'll be middle income individuals that are struggling and their gunna see an impact of hundreds of dollars," Kooyenga told 27 News.

But Democratic Committee member Rep. Cory Mason (D-Racine) says the middle class will not be the benefactors. "According to the non-partisan fiscal bureau, 55% of the tax break is gunna go to the people making more than six figures," Mason said.

Some private school tuition expenses would now be tax deductible under a new budget provision. The committee also approved a plan to expand the controversial private school voucher program statewide.

It caps enrollment in voucher schools to 500 students next year and 1,000 for every year after that. "I think with the tax deduction and the expansion statewide, they finally revealed their real intention which isn't to address the achievement gap, it's to give money into the hands of private schools," Mason said about Joint Finance Committee Republicans Wednesday.

State Superintendent Tony Evers released a statement saying the deal "harms our kids" and "does too little to improve funding for public education," following the approval. Republicans have maintained it gives parents a choice out of failing schools.

Two more provisions in the budget have caused a stir. Committee members approved a plan to allow bail bondsmen in five counties, including Dane County. "Forty-six states have bail bondsmen and essentially, the way we crafted it, it's up to the judge," Kooyenga said.

The committee also passed a provision that forces the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism to move off UW-Madison's campus. The Center's leader, Andy Hall, told the Associated Press he was stunned by the provision. He hopes legislators will reconsider that action.

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