Education is central to state budgeting

Joe Leibham  9th Senatorial District

As I reported last week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), of which I am a member, recently completed our work on advancing a proposed 2013-15 state budget. The budget plan proposes how our state government will tax and spend over the next two years. Over the next couple of weeks, I will work to provide actual information on key provisions included in the budget.

Providing quality education opportunities for our citizens has been and continues to be a major priority of our state government. In fact, spending on 4K-12th grade public education is the larg- est investment that we make with state tax revenues. In the proposed 2013-15 budget, our state will invest $12.03 billion in our 4K-12 public education system, an increase of $340 million over the previous biennium.

Under the budget plan, school districts across the state will be allowed, if they choose, to increase spending by $150 per student in each of the next two years. While state taxpayers will cover the majority of this increase, a small portion will be funded through local property tax levies. If a school district desires to spend more, they retain the ability to do so through the approval of a local referendum.

In an effort to provide opportunities for low-income students who are struggling at their current public schools, the budget proposes to allow 500 students in 2013-14 and another 500 students in 2014-15 from any district in the state that doesn’t currently participate in the voucher program to receive a voucher of up to $7,210 per year for students in grades K-8 and $7,856 per year for students in grades 9-12 to attend an alternative voucher school.

A participating pupil’s totally family income must not exceed 185% of the federal poverty level and no more than 1% of the pupil membership of an individual school district may participate. Vouchers schools must follow accountability, auditing, and accreditation requirements specified by the state.

JFC added to the budget a provision that would create an individual income tax deduction for private school tuition payments. Tax filers may claim up to a $4,000 deduction for each dependent who is enrolled in Kindergarten through 8th grade and a $10,000 deduction for each dependent who is enrolled in 9th through 12th grade. This provision will begin in tax year 2014.

Updated information on the JFC budget can be found at:

With the specific information on education available at:

The JFC budget will now go before the full state Assembly and Senate for continued debate and approval. Finally, an identical budget plan that passes both houses must go before Governor Scott Walker for his review and signature. This work will hopefully happen over the next couple of weeks and I look forward to keeping you informed.

~ Issue Corner Senate Bill (SB) 213: Prohibiting Merchants from Imposing Surcharges on Credit Card Purchases ~

SB 213 prohibits a merchant from explicitly imposing a surcharge fee (swipe fee, convenience fee) on a customer who uses a credit card to purchase an item instead of cash or check. Furthermore, this bill permits a merchant to offer a discount to a customer who pays with a cash, check or similar means. SB 213 establishes a penalty of $25 plus actual damages sustained by the customer.

You can view an electronic copy of SB 213 here: Also, I encourage you to sign up for the legislative notification service so that you can track this proposal as it makes its way through the legislature:

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