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UW System president praises Walker's budget proposals

Published On: Feb 25 2013 06:43:06 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 25 2013 06:49:57 AM CST

MADISON, Wis. -

The University of Wisconsin System's president says Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposals would keep tuition costs down and improve economic development programs at various campuses across the state.

Kevin Reilly said he was "very happy" with the additional $181 million Walker proposed to send to the UW System to expand online degree programs, workforce development efforts and more.

"It's correct that it will not make up for all the cuts we've had, but it'll go a long ways toward stabilizing us and bringing us back in the right direction," Reilly said.

Reilly's comments come as Democrats and Republicans find faults with certain parts of Walker's budget, which the governor introduced to the legislature Wednesday.

Walker's income tax cut plan, which the governor championed, would direct $106 to a family of four earning a combined $80,000, the administration said. That's about $2 a week.

Democrats said lower earners would benefit even less, and the tax cut's $343 million cost would be better spent elsewhere.

"I think the money could've been spent in K-12 education or in technical schools," said state Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton. "The money would've gotten a better bang for the buck for that. This income tax cut isn't going to do anything for the economy."

Democrats also said the governor's rejection of billions in federal money for a Medicaid expansion would leave 87,000 people without health care.

Walker has said he will expand Medicaid to cover 82,000 more Wisconsinites who live in poverty.

Republicans have suggested the legislature will scrutinize proposals to add state workers, borrow money for transportation projects, and expand the school choice program.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said Wednesday that lawmakers may make "serious changes" to the governor's school choice plan, if it's included in the final budget at all.

School choice would allow parents of children in failing public schools to use state vouchers to send their kids to private schools.

Rep. Robin Vos, the Republican Assembly speaker, said he didn't agree with proposals to issue bonds for new infrastructure spending or to add 710 workers to the state payroll.

Vos said he was "open to being persuaded" if the plans proved cost-effective.

The Walker administration has said the new workers, such as 180 new transportation department engineers, would save the state millions of dollars by creating efficiencies.

Erpenbach said Democrats would propose amendments to increase lower education funding, allow school boards to raise needed money in their districts, and restore collective bargaining rights for public sector workers.

But Republicans control both houses and can control the budget process if they work together, he said.

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