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Walker tags new budget the 'Reform Dividend'; northern Democrats slam it as 'rainbows and unicorns'Submitted: 02/08/2017
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Walker tags new budget the 'Reform Dividend'; northern Democrats slam it as 'rainbows and unicorns'
MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker calls his spending plan for the next two years the "Reform Dividend."

In Wednesday's biennial Budget Address, Walker pointed to reforms like Act 10 and tax cuts of the first six years of his administration.

He said those yielded a dividend; namely, that Wisconsin can spend a little more on things like education and social programs while continuing to cut taxes.


"We're putting more money into public education than ever before, making college even more affordable, caring for the truly needy," Walker said before a joint session of the legislature Wednesday afternoon.

Walker wants to give $649 million in new funding to public schools through a six-year-old tool called categorical aids. That means aid would be distributed uniformly, whether a school district is relatively wealthy or relatively poor.

"The really good part for northern Wisconsin is that we're going to see more money go into categorical aids, so every student is going to get that money," said Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst). "I hope this does go into the classroom, and especially for our good teachers, that they are going to see more money into their paychecks."

Rep. Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield) sees the effects for northern Wisconsin differently.

"It is a lot of money. It doesn't target schools that need the money most," said Meyers.

Northern Wisconsin Democrats didn't mount a full attack on this session's budget plan.

"Absolutely, it's better than nothing," Meyers conceded.

However, they were quick to attack Walker's past moves.

"I think this is really an admission of his past failed budgets, which have cut and gut our most cherished institutions, like our public schools and like our universities," said Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point).

Those past budgets also included tax cuts. This one continues the pattern.

"Let me be clear. Now is not the time to raise taxes," Walker said. "We are getting rid of the state portion of your property tax bill. For the first time since 1931, there will be no state tax collected on your property tax bill."

Walker's plan, by 2018, would put both property and income taxes below 2010 levels.

"That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? I'm a property owner," Meyers said. "I'd love not to pay state taxes if it meant that all of the services were being met that the state needs."

But, Meyers added, she was skeptical that the state could continue providing the services it had promised to taxpayers.

Walker spent relatively little time addressing transportation funding. That area had perhaps gotten the most attention going into the budget proposals, as the state faced a $1 billion shortfall in funding.

Walker proposed slowing major projects in the Milwaukee area while increasing funding for local and county highway departments.

Democrats tagged Walker's budget plan as a pander to a possible reelection bid in 2018.

"This sounded a lot like a campaign speech," Meyers said. "A lot of rainbows and unicorns."

Walker's budget will now be reviewed and amended by the legislature's Joint Finance Committee in a months-long process.

Northcentral Wisconsin is well represented there, with Tiffany and Shankland sitting on the panel, along with Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma).

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 IN OTHER NEWS
What We're Working OnSubmitted: 07/27/2017

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:


We take our Long Summer Weekend to Langlade County:

We talk about the importance of lumber industry in Langlade County and throughout Wisconsin, and we talk to Northcentral Technical College and a local lumber company about how NTC is like a pipeline of talent for the industry.

We show you the Langlade County Fair's annual horsemanship showcase and introduce you to some of the competitors.

And when you go shopping for produce, you normally take a list and pull straight from the store shelf. But tonight we take you to a Deerbrook farm where you buy a season's worth of vegetables without knowing what you'll get.


We'll bring you the details on these stories and more on our long summer weekend in Langlade County tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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RHINELANDER - Seventeen-year-old Ashlee Martinson was "incapable of making rational choices" when she killed her mother and stepfather in Oneida County two years ago, her lawyer argues.

Attorney Mark Schoenfeldt is arguing for a reduced sentence for Martinson, who is currently serving a 23-year prison term.

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LANGLADE - A legacy that started in 1947 lives on in the small community of Langlade. 

Bob and Joni's bar has gone through three generations of owners and a few name changes since it opened more than 70 years ago. 

But one thing has remained the same. 

"If you're not laughing, smiling, having a good time, you're probably at the wrong bar," said Bob and Joni's manager Jeremy Walters.

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RHINELANDER - News that his wife was cheating on him may have led a Waukesha man to light a van on fire, shoot off a gun, and trigger the Oneida County SWAT team near Pelican Lake last week.

Prosecutors filed formal charges against 51-year-old Richard Hitchcock in Oneida County Court on Thursday.

Hitchcock is accused of burning his van in the woods and firing three shots last Thursday. The Oneida County Sheriff's Office responded with its SWAT team, a drone, and canine units before arresting Hitchcock.

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OCONTO - Logging crews in northern Wisconsin are trying to make up for rainy weather that's slowed down their operations.

Logging experts tell WLUK-TV that it typically takes three or four days of dry weather for the ground to be parched enough for trucks to operate on logging roads.

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MADISON - A judge has ordered computer maker Apple Inc. to pay more than $506 million in a patent infringement case brought by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation after the two sides agreed on final damages.

In 2015, a jury found Apple infringed on a patent held by the foundation, which supports research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The patent involves chip technology developed at the university. The technology was used in processors installed by Apple in a number of products.

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MADISON - Now that Wisconsin has landed a coveted Foxconn plant it will need to quickly transition to a more highly skilled workforce than the assembly lines that established the state's manufacturing legacy.

The electronics giant known for making Apple products in China Foxconn has not said what type of jobs it will offer in order to produce liquid-crystal display panels that are used in televisions and computer screens. But some of the higher-end positions could be for engineers and software developers and those jobs aren't always easy to fill.

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