Budget season in Wisconsin officially gets underway this week with the Joint Finance Committee's first actions on Governor Evers' taxing and spending plan for 2021-23. The big item on Thursday will include the plans by the WisGOPs who control JFC to remove 280 items from the document, including Medicaid expansion (meaning Wisconsinites will pay an additional $1.6 billion due to this WisGOP action), economic policy proposals such as the removal of Act 10 and a higher minimum wage, and WisGOPs not allowing marijuana to be legalized in the state. You can see all of the items that WisGOP is planning to remove at this link. One of those items getting the boot includes Evers' request to freeze enrollment in the state's school voucher program at next year's levels. And that ties in to another budget item that Joint Finance will take up on Thursday - adjusting the budget to match updated projections of enrollment and costs of various state programs. In budget parlance, this is called "sum sufficient appropriations", and they are basically entitlements where funds have to be paid if the programs are used (whether budgeted or not). The Evers budget generally goes with the base costs estimated for this Fiscal Year, and then the Legislative Fiscal Bureau does adjustments for the next 2 years based on usage trends and other developments. These sum-sufficient adjustments are going to give even more breathing room to the 2021-23 budget, reducing General Purpose costs by nearly $494 million. Most of that is due to the renegotiated Foxconn contract ($386.5 million less has to be set aside now), and over $93 million in reduced debt costs, as interest rates plummeted in 2020 and bonds were renegotiated. Many other sum-sufficients have small adjustments, but you know what has the largest increase in sum-sufficients? School vouchers.
Vouchers outside of Milwaukee +$47.6 million
Special Needs Scholarships +$31.8 million
Milwaukee voucher program -$20.3 million
TOTAL CHANGE VOUCHER PROGRAMS $59.1 million
And I'll remind you that this $59 million is taken away in state aid to the public school district that the chid lives in (whether the kid ever went to that school or not), and public districts often have to raise property taxes by the same amount to make up the difference. Add in the fact that many Wisconsinites aren't writing off property taxes any more due to the GOP Tax Scam, and you can see where this is a double-loss for people who don't send their kids to Betsy Devos's "Jesus Rode a Dinosaur" school.
Now maybe 2021 is an odd situation given how COVID caused some temporary changes for where many kids went to school, and how they receivedd their schooling. But assuming JFC signs off on those Sum Sufficient amounts, there are going to be many millions more dollars set to go to vouchers over the next 2 years, without public schools being given aid to make up the difference.
Republicans used to be all about cost-effectiveness with government spen\ding. But when it comes to throwing state tax dollars into an entirely separate school system, they say "MORE, MORE, MORE!". Hey, those checks from Betsy DeVos and Scott Jensen won't write themselves for 2022, right?
It only ends when they are out of power. Know this.