Following his victory in the Democratic primary for governor Tuesday night, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers made big promises on education but omitted any plans for funding them in his victory speech.
“I will make the largest investment in early childhood education that our state has ever seen,” Evers said. He added, “In my first budget I will finally return to two thirds funding for our public schools.”
Last month Evers announced his education plan which included an additional $600 million dollars in special education funding. The Journal Sentinel noted that Evers’ additional funding request would equal $969 million for special education funding in the next biennial budget, which would be up 163% from the current $369 million.
As for the two-thirds funding promise, Dr. Will Flanders of the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty said it would cost state government $1.5 billion.
So how would these monumental increases to education be paid for? According to his school finance reform plan, all these historic increases in funding will somehow be offset by the decline in local school property taxes and the elimination of the School Levy Tax Credit (SLTC).
“This plan holds the line on property taxes,” Evers’ plan said. “In the first year of the plan, gross statewide school property taxes are estimated to decrease by more than 18% – more than when the state instituted the two-thirds funding commitment in the 1990s. In net terms (i.e. when the impact of the SLTC is considered), net statewide school property taxes are estimated to be held at 0%.”
Media Trackers spoke with Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) Director of Health & Human Resources Policy Chris Reader, who was skeptical on Evers’ plan. He pointed out that funding for his plan may compromise important reforms such as the manufacturer and agriculture tax credit, which has helped attract employers to Wisconsin.
“You certainly cannot fund education by putting more taxes onto businesses and homeowners, which if we would eliminate a tax credit for property owners that’s what would happen,” Reader said. “You also cannot fund education by taxing employers more by eliminating important reforms from recent years like the manufacturer and agriculture tax credit which have helped pull employers into our state, and that’s another area he wants to eliminate.”
Reader said Evers’ increased spending on education will have to come from somewhere.
“We have record investment in education right now in Wisconsin and that’s a good thing,” Reader said, “You can’t just continue to put huge sums of money into it just to one up your opponents without it raising taxes somewhere. Whether it’s going to raise property taxes or income taxes on employers, it will result in increased taxes, unless he highlights what other programs around the state he wants cut.”
Ever’s additionally told WISC-TV he would “absolutely” repeal Act 10 if elected governor, which the MacIver Institute estimated to have saved school districts $3.2 billion in benefits costs since it’s passage in 2011. While Evers also promises to raise funding for healthcare and transportation, his promises leaves one to wonder at where all this money is going to come from.