News Column

Tech colleges happy with Scott Walker tax proposals

January 23, 2014

By Dan Simmons, The Wisconsin State Journal

Jan. 24 --Technical college leaders on Thursday applauded proposals by Gov. Scott Walker to shift some of their funding from property owners to the state and infuse an extra $35 million to cut waiting lists in key programs among other measures. "We have long sought greater equity between local and state investments," said Morna Foy , president of the Wisconsin Technical College System , in a statement. "The governor's proposal brings better balance to the System's funding structure." Walker's proposals, revealed Wednesday night in his annual State of the State speech, would lower property taxes $406 million by providing that much more money in state aid to technical colleges and creating a new limit on technical college revenues. Taxes on the median-value home worth $151,000 would drop by $101 . Technical college spending levels would remain the same. Conor Smyth , spokesman for the WTCS, said system officials aren't worried about the proposed revenue limits, noting that they've been told a provision will be included in Walker's bill that would allow the colleges to increase property tax levies if the state's contribution declined. Tim Casper , vice president of budget and public affairs at Madison Area Technical College , said he understands the proposals the same way. "The state funding will not completely eliminate the property tax and the college will not have to reduce its property tax to a level that doesn't maintain our overall funding at the current year's level," he said in an email, noting the college has not seen a copy of Walker's proposals. Walker also proposed pouring an additional $35 million into a job training program known as Wisconsin Fast Forward. The $35 million , which comes from economic development-related surplus funds, would be spent on several programs, including eliminating waiting lists at technical colleges in such high-demand fields as manufacturing, agriculture and information technology; helping high school students get training in high-demand jobs through dual-enrollment programs with high schools and technical colleges; and supporting programs helping people with disabilities to enter the workforce. Smyth said the $35 million would be available to technical colleges statewide. While Walker spotlighted the three areas with high waiting lists, Smyth said the funds could be used in other high-demand fields depending on the region. He mentioned health care programs in areas with high need, including Madison and La Crosse . Technical colleges collect about $800 million a year in property taxes. Walker said the property tax reduction is not intended to be the first step toward eliminating the technical college property tax. ___ (c)2014 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.) Visit The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

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