For Immediate Release — Feb. 12, 1997
Contact: Kevin Keane (608) 266-8110
GOVERNOR OUTLINES CENTURY’S LAST STATE BUDGET
Biennial budget emphasizes education, the environment and public safety
MADISON — Gov. Tommy G. Thompson today unveiled a balanced 1997-99 state budget that fulfils the state’s continuing commitment to fund two-thirds of local school costs and makes the necessary investments in Wisconsin’s people, environment and public safety without raising general taxes.
The governor outlined the $36 billion biennial budget in address to a joint session of the state Legislature.
“I am proud to present a balanced budget that meets the challenge of preparing America’s State for a new century,” Gov. Thompson said. “This budget builds stronger schools, better businesses, more jobs, thriving farms, a sustainable environment, healthier families, safer neighborhoods and a smaller, smarter government.”
In honor of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, Gov. Thompson spoke of the great forefather’s efforts to build a strong house that would stand for future generations of Americans. The governor said our challenge is to do the same for future generations of Wisconsinites.
“Education and the economy are our future,” Gov. Thompson said. “They are the stones upon which we will build a great new house for a new generation.”
Gov. Thompson’s budget renews his commitment to funding two-thirds of school costs, allowing the downward trend in Wisconsin property tax bills to continue for a fourth consecutive year.
“As a percentage of per capita income, Wisconsin homeowners will have their lowest property tax burden since in 45 years. And this budget provides taxpayers with their lightest state and local general tax burden in 14 years!” Gov. Thompson said.
The governor said that we must prepare our children today to lead Wisconsin to even greater heights tomorrow.
The 1997-99 state budget strengthens the state’s model school-to-work program, establishes rigorous academic standards and requires students to pass a test in order to graduate. The budget also makes a $200 million investment in technology to expand the educational opportunities of students across Wisconsin.
Gov. Thompson also called for the investment of more than $10 million in technology and faculty training in the UW System and a five percent increase in student aid over the next biennium.
“America’s State won’t work tomorrow if we don’t prepare our children today,” Gov. Thompson said.
Gov. Thompson proposed streamlining business assistance services and permitting processes at the Departments of Commerce and Natural Resources to complement the innovative Brownfields and Urban Hope initiatives he unveiled earlier this week. The DNR will now offer money-back guarantees if they don’t resolve a permit request in the time promised.
“These three initiatives will provide the impetus for recycling our cities’ brownfields into neighborhood job centers,” Gov. Thompson said.
Recognizing the importance of the family farm to Wisconsin’s continued development, Gov. Thompson will expand the Rural Economic Development Fund by nearly $1.5 million and increase the amounts of grants and loans awarded. The budget also provides an additional $7.5 million to nearly double the size of Wisconsin’s Beginning Farmer Program and $100,000 for education and research in our on-going efforts to persuade officials in Washington to make the necessary changes to the dairy pricing system.
“We have Washington’s attention, now we need Washington to act,” Gov. Thompson said. “We will keep the pressure up until they do. America’s State will accept nothing less.”
Gov. Thompson’s budget provides $1.8 million during the biennium for maintenance of local snowmobile trails. The governor last week provided $80,000 in emergency aid to keep trails groomed after this winter’s heavy snowfall.
The governor also said registration of snowmobilies, boats and all-terrain vehicles will be automated to provide better service to those enthusiasts.
Gov. Thompson said that there is perhaps nothing more important to the continuing development of local economies than building and improving roads. He pledged to work with the entire Legislature, local officials and everyone who cares about maintaining our diverse transportation infrastructure to find a consensus on how to fund Wisconsin’s future transportation needs.
“Our economic future depends on our ability to rise above partisanship and regional biases and to have a long-term perspective on transportation policy and its importance to Wisconsin’s continued success,” Gov. Thompson said.
Gov. Thompson on Monday announced an aggressive new series of environmental initiatives that are included in his 1997-99 budget. The governor today outlined an important addition to that package: a new standard for that must be met to obtain a mining permit. The new standard places a greater burden on potential miners to prove that their operations will not harm the environment.
“Let me be clear: if a mining company can’t prove its operation is safe, it will not receive a mining permit in Wisconsin,” Gov. Thompson said. “And we must leave it to the scientists — not the special interests on either side of the issue — to make that determination.”
The governor instructed DNR Secretary George Meyer to appoint a scientific advisory to review the environmental impact of any proposed mine.
Gov. Thompson’s budget makes additional commitments to ensure the success of Wisconsin’s landmark W-2 program.
The budget provides an additional $3 million to expand transportation for W-2 families and an additional $25 million each year — a 21 percent increase — for grants paid to those who are working in community service or transitional jobs, the two lowest rungs on the W-2 ladder.
The governor’s budget also calls for more than $167 million during the next two years to care for foster children as the state takes over the child welfare system in Milwaukee County.
Gov. Thompson proposed an aggressive, top-to-bottom restructuring of Wisconsin’s criminal justice system to rebuild public confidence in a system that lacks consistency and that coddles criminals.
The governor called for truth in sentencing, including the complete elimination of mandatory release and parole.
“If you’re sentenced to 20 years in prison, you serve 20 years. Period,” Gov. Thompson said. “The only mandatory release comes after 100 percent of the prison sentence is served. No exceptions.”
Gov. Thompson said his budget will bolster maximum penalties for felonies and require criminals to serve an extended period under strict supervision once they have served their term in prison. If they violate their terms of supervision, the governor said, they will go back to prison.
The new system will also allow prison officials to extend the sentence of an inmate that is behaving badly in prison and to send him to the Super Max.
“We are replacing time off for good behavior with more time in for bad behavior,” Gov. Thompson said.
The governor’s strict new sentencing system is backed up with a commitment to add almost 4,400 new beds to Wisconsin’s correction’s system and 494 new corrections staff to help manage the more than 2,241 new beds that will become ready for use during the next two years.
Gov. Thompson called for the construction of a new 1,000-bed state prison and a 600-bed probation and parole facility for southeastern Wisconsin. The probation facility will include 200 beds for alcohol and drug abuse treatment.
To further alleviate overcrowding in our prisons, the governor said the state will pursue a contract with a private prison in Appleton, Minn. for the housing of up to 500 Wisconsin inmates. One hundred new beds will also be created at the Thompson Correctional Center for a Control and Confinement Center to provide secured supervision for those well-behaved inmates who are nearing the end of their sentences.
The governor said Wisconsin’s zero tolerance approach to crime and punishment will be complemented by new efforts to prevent crime and reduce recidivism.
The governor’s budget will:
The governor said his budget would also include additional support for the men and women who fight drugs, keep sexual offenders from children and protect other victims of crime.
The budget adds more than $1.7 million and 27 positions to the Justice Department to bolster our efforts to fight drug use in Wisconsin. It also provides an additional attorney to fight appeals by criminals committed under our highly successful sexual predator program. It provides more than $2.5 million to local communities for services to crime and sexual assault victims and those in our witness protection program.
Additional information about each of the initiatives outlined above and others in the governor’s budget can be found in the “Budget in Brief,” available from the state budget office or on the Internet at “www.wisgov.state.wi.us”.