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Administration secretary visits to promote governor's budget proposal

Michael Huebsch, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, visits the Hudson office of the Star-Observer on Tuesday. He was in town to support Gov. Scott Walker's 2013-15 state budget proposal.

Michael Huebsch, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, came to Hudson Tuesday afternoon to promote Gov. Scott Walker's 2013-15 budget proposal.

The governor's proposal would spend a little less than $68 billion over the next two years, including $30.5 of state tax dollars.

State spending would increase 3 percent in the first year, and 2.1 percent in the second year.

The theme of 1,093-page budget, Huebsch said, is "greater prosperity, better performance and true independence" for Wisconsin's residents.

It is built around five priorities, he said:

1. creating jobs,

2. developing the workforce,

3. reforming education,

4. investing in infrastructure, and

5. reforming government.

"The governor has said the government doesn't create jobs. People do," Huebsch said. "What the government can do is either create an environment whereby jobs will be created, or they won't. Businesses will want to grow and expand here in Wisconsin, or they will go someplace else."

That, the secretary said, is the main theme of the governor's budget and his entire administration.

To encourage job growth, the governor has proposed reducing income taxes by $343 million over the next two years.

"By focusing on reducing middle class rates and by combining it with the Manufacturing and Agricultural Credit passed in Act 32, Wisconsin will become a more attractive place for all people to live or start a business," an administration brief on the budget states.

Critics have said the tax reduction is modest for middle- and lower-income people (a decrease of about $106 annually for a family of four earning $80,000 a year). But Huebsch notes that the reduction in rates will result in lower tax bills for years to come.

The total tax cut is more than $1 billion over the next decade, he said.

The proposed budget also provides $75 million in additional economic development tax credits and $25 million to start a capital investment program to help start-up businesses.

To develop the skills of Wisconsin's workforce, Gov. Walker has proposed making "smart, targeted, performance-based investments" in the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System and traditional K-12 education.

The Wisconsin Department of Development has 30,000 vacant jobs listed on its website, and yet the state unemployment rate is 6.6 percent, Huebsch said. The goal of the governor is to provide people with the training they need to fill the available positions.

The governor's budget proposal transforms education, Huebsch said, by rewarding high-performing schools with increased funding, and providing additional money to fix low-performing schools.

But local schools will be held to the same revenue caps they were under the 2011-13 budget, a fact that brought protests from several school administrators in western Wisconsin.

Under the revenue cap, schools are limited to an increase resulting from new construction in the district.

Huebsch said state spending for secondary education will increase by $100 million in the next biennium, but it will be based on performance, not the traditional model of distributing it to school.

The governor's plan to expand the school voucher program to eight or nine more school districts, and increase the funding for it, also has come under criticism, including from some Republican lawmakers.

The 48-year-old Huebsch is from West Salem and represented District 94 near La Crosse in the State Assembly for 16 years.

During his time as speaker of the Assembly, he appointed then-Rep. Kitty Rhoades of Hudson to the Legislature's powerful Joint Finance Committee.

Rhoades has recently risen to secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Randy Hanson

Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.

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