Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Assembly GOP Upstage Walker’s Budget

Republican leaders announce “Forward” agenda, six months before Gov. Walker gives his 2017-19 budget to the new Legislature.

By - Sep 12th, 2016 01:16 pm
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos

For the second time in two years, Republicans who control the Assembly have attempted to steal the next state budget spotlight from their party’s leader, Gov. Scott Walker.

With the announcement of their 30-page “Forward” agenda last week, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and his leadership team moved to one-up Walker on new budget initiatives almost six months before he gives his formal 2017-19 spending plan to the new Legislature.

Officially, Assembly Republicans say they need to give their candidates on Nov. 8 a preview of next session’s goals to convince voters why their party should keep running half of the Legislature. Republicans privately expect to lose a few seats on Nov. 8, but political pros say their 63-36 chokehold on the Assembly is not in doubt.

Unofficially, the Forward agenda advises Walker to include most of it in his budget, or the Assembly will add what he doesn’t. Basically, Forward tells the two-term governor: “Assembly Republicans have ideas. You just fill in the numbers.” Walker plans to use the next budget as the centerpiece of a re-election bid in 2018.

An example: Assembly Republicans want more police officers for Milwaukee, where protesters burned down six businesses in August after the fatal shooting of a fleeing suspect who police say was armed.

The Forward blueprint says: “Milwaukee police have deemed August 2016 the deadliest month in 25 years. Our largest city is facing a serious challenge…A safer Milwaukee is in the state’s best interest. It is clear that more police officers need to be on the streets and criminal behavior must be punished accordingly.”

If Walker and Assembly Republicans were on the same page, Team Vos and the governor would hold a Milwaukee press conference to promise (1) the governor’s budget will include more Milwaukee police officers and (2) Assembly Republicans will make sure that is part of the budget they pass.

Instead, on the day Assembly Republicans introduced the Forward agenda in the Capitol, Walker worked two other media markets – Green Bay and Milwaukee – to announce that his budget will propose a back-to-school “sales tax holiday” in August 2017.

Walker’s office announced his two “tax holiday” appearances about four hours after Vos’s office alerted news organizations to the Forward rollout.

Ironically, the back-to-school sales tax holiday, which would save parents about $12 million, is also part of the Assembly Republicans’ agenda.

The Forward blueprint widened the gap between Assembly Republicans and Walker on how to pay for highways and transportation programs.

Despite a projected $939-million deficit in the Transportation Fund by mid-2019, Walker has doubled down on his promise to not raise the 30.9-cent gas tax and/or the $75 annual vehicle registration, unless increases are offset by other spending or tax cuts.

That’s not leadership, Assembly Republicans say:

“Roads and infrastructure are one of the fundamental responsibilities of government and Assembly Republicans are committed to growing our economy by meeting [those] needs…We will work hard to put in place a solution that will resolve our funding deficit for future generations.

“User fees are an equitable way to recoup the costs associated with the wear and tear that users put on our infrastructure. Wisconsin can ensure that these user fees are fair, while committing to keep them below our neighboring states.”

Other Forward goals:

*Boosting state aid for schools so every high school freshmen has a computer or tablet.

*Raising the criminal sentences for serious crimes, while lowering them for minor ones. It’s unclear whether that package could mean the release of inmates serving sentences for some non-violent crimes.

*“Certificates of Qualification” for those convicted of a crime who learn a skill or  trade.

*A Teacher Protection Act and specialized training for “anyone looking to teach in an urban environment.”

*Creation of a Long-Term Care Investment Fund to help pay future medical bills and delay when someone must rely on Medicaid for health care.

*Challenging the UW System to make sure “diverse perspectives” are welcome throughout all 26 campuses.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca said the GOP Forward plan includes “almost no new ideas to address the significant problems.”

And, Barca said, it’s more important to ask what future changes Republicans plan that they didn’t announce last week. Two years ago, Barca noted, Assembly Republicans didn’t promise to make Wisconsin a right-to-work state and repeal a law specifying wages paid on public works projects. Both those became law.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at

15 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Assembly GOP Upstage Walker’s Budget”

  1. GM says:

    It would appear, from this article, that Vos has fired a warning shot across the bow of HMS Walker (which seems to be listing a bit lately)…that Vos intends to take Walker’s *job*.

  2. Wisconsin conservative Digest says:

    Vos and the assembly has laid down a great plan for the future of working families in Wisconsin, we applaud them.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    What specifically in the plan is great for state families and why? I mean of course you support it. That’s fine and to be expected. But provide some explanation at least.

  4. Jack says:

    “Boosting state aid for schools so every high school freshmen has a computer or tablet.”

    I have no problem with boosting state aid to schools but, Republicans are going to dictate how the return of our tax dollars to local school districts are to be spent?

    For those of you who don’t recognize it, this is BIG government control.

  5. Jack says:

    “Creation of a Long-Term Care Investment Fund to help pay future medical bills and delay when someone must rely on Medicaid for health care.”

    Accepting Medicaid expansion through the ACA as did John Kasich and other Republican governors would have saved the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

    “The state could have saved more than $500 million over 31/2 years, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates”

    And their claim to fame is ‘fiscal responsibility’.

  6. wisconsin conservative Digest says:

    Jack, the state constitution requires the state to educate the kids. This is 21st century we are not using abacuses anymore, or adding machines. You want kids to become taxpayers, we must make sure they can do that.
    Or we have the Inner city model is that what you want?
    You better look again, the states that added the Medicaid are in deep voodoo just like California with eh Obamacare programs and their Halfast train is bankrupting them. Check out Illinois guys.

  7. Vincent Hanna says:

    So you want us to spend more on kids WCD? Are you calling for an increase in K-12 education spending? You sound like a big spender when you talk about education in the 21st century.

  8. Jack says:

    “A Teacher Protection Act”

    The very folks who have spent their entire careers demonizing teachers now have the temerity to insult our intelligence with crap like this.

    “specialized training for “anyone looking to teach in an urban environment.”

    Is that a dog whistle I hear?

  9. Jason says:

    The Assembly Republicans have every right to agree or disagree with Governor Walker’s proposals they are a governing body and the body is up for election every two years which makes them closest to the voting public. Second, can Democrats stop crying about the need for Wisconsin to raise more taxes for public transportation on roads. No one is asking Tom Barret or Chris Abele to raise taxes on the lead pipe crisis and yet, young children of color drink and bathe in it every day.

  10. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Phoney Liberals just want more money into education for political reasons, when they need leaders. Doesn’t work NJ spends almost twice as much as us with worse results. Since 1970 education sending has increased tenfold since then with 40% fewer students yet results are down. Overhead, pork, administration, way up.
    How many people yelled when the schools were “National Disasters”. No, they do not care, they spend on trolleys and Arenas while the kids cannot read and crime is worse than southside Chicago. That is the Liberal way, subsidize the billionaires, screw the working people.

  11. Vincent Hanna says:

    Jason spare us your pseudo-outrage. You don’t care about those kids in the city. You only bring it up because it’s an opportunity for you to bash Barrett and Abele. That’s it. Based on your history here there’s no reason whatsoever to believe otherwise.

  12. Jason says:

    Vince, we should have coffee. We can go to the Starbucks on Port Washington and Green Tree. We can pretend it is like real life. I will be the payer and you can be the entitled.

  13. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Conservatives like Tommy, myself, Kooyenga, Darling and Sensenbrenner are the only ones that have shown interest in fixing inner city. Chapter 220 was our invention, voucher/CHOICE/Charter schools were our invention, Badger care, and other programs that we wanted to do like buts upMPS, ca motional disaster valued by the Left, unions were the only things done to fix the Inner City. Doyle, Barrett have done nothing. barrett holdout inner city oiled, crime, schools fro Bucks and trolleys.

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    No mention of Howard Fuller? Didn’t he start the movement in Milwaukee? Revisionist history is strong with you WCD. You sure are arrogant and self-congratulatory. Since choice has done nothing to improve schools I wouldn’t pat yourself on the back too much buddy.

  15. Vincent Hanna says:

    I prefer Colectivo or Stone Creek, and I can buy. I can afford it! Imagine that! Sorry that goes against your narrow worldview.

    Since you are so much about the poor children in inner city Milwaukee being exposed to lead in their water, you must be outraged that Scott Walker loves the lead paint industry and took oodles of money from them while Republicans in the legislature did their part to block lawsuits against the industry.

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