Madison — Prospective politicians, college students, business owners, state workers and commuters all will face a new world when the new state budget takes effect Friday.
The Republican-crafted spending plan reshapes all corners of Wisconsin life, from prospective politicians to college students to business owners. Tucked into the budget are plans to end public financing for state office races, clear the way for higher tuition at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, make new government employees work longer before they can participate in the state retirement system and bring back auto title loans.
Also on tap are tax credits for businesses, money for freeway construction in Milwaukee and higher awards in small claims cases.
It’s not all stone-cold serious. The budget also allows movie theaters to apply for liquor licenses and creates a special day to honor former President Ronald Reagan.
Here’s a look at some of the ways the budget will reshape the state’s priorities and touch lives across Wisconsin:
Law and order
• If you sue someone in small claims court, you could win more money. Under the budget, plaintiffs can recover as much as $10,000 in small claims actions, double the former limit of $5,000 starting Friday.
• If you provide child care through the troubled Wisconsin Shares day-care program, get ready to be fingerprinted. A provision in the state budget that takes effect Friday requires the state Department of Children and Families to amend its rules and require any Wisconsin Shares provider to submit fingerprints to program administrators. The agency doesn’t have a clear timeline for the revisions.
• If you’re the parent of a child who had been sentenced to the Ethan Allen School, a detention facility for boys in Waukesha County, or the Southern Oaks Girls School, a detention facility for girls in Union Grove, you’ll have to travel elsewhere to visit them. The budget shuts down both facilities and moves all the inmates to Lincoln Hills School in Lincoln County in far northern Wisconsin. The state Department of Corrections finished transferring the inmates this week.
• If you’re sick of traffic jams on the way in or out of Milwaukee, help might be on the way — in a few years. The budget makes $225 million available beginning Friday to rebuild the Zoo Interchange, where U.S. Highway 45, Interstate 94 and Interstate 894 meet. Construction, however, isn’t expected to begin until 2015.
• If you run for governor, the Legislature or the state Supreme Court, you’ll have to raise all the money yourself. The budget ends public financing for campaigns for all those offices.
• If you’re poor and trying to raise kids, life will get tougher. A state budget provision reduces income tax credits for poor families with two or more children by $65 million during the next two years. People will start seeing the changes when they file their taxes for 2011.
• If you’re a Wisconsin business owner, it will get a little easier to exist in Wisconsin. The budget creates a new capital gains tax deferral for investments in Wisconsin-based companies, loosens taxes charged to multistate corporations and creates a new tax credit for manufacturers and agricultural businesses. Those changes should be fully phased in by 2016.
• If you rely on Medicaid, it’s going to cost you more. The budget cuts $500 million from the health care program. The spending plan doesn’t reduce benefits across the board or cut provider reimbursement rates, but participants will face higher co-pays and deductibles. It’s unclear when those new costs might begin. The state needs federal approval for the changes and the Legislature’s finance committee must sign off on them. State health officials haven’t submitted any proposals to the committee.
• If you’re a University of Wisconsin student, start saving your pennies. The budget allows the UW Board of Regents to increase tuition by as much as 5.5 percent beginning with the fall semester.
• If you’re a child of an illegal immigrant, going to college in Wisconsin is about to get much more expensive. The budget ends in-state tuition rates for children of illegal immigrants and forces them to pay out-of-state rates. Those changes will apply to anyone who enrolls for classes after Friday.
• If you have a child in a K-12 public school, you might see changes during the next two years, depending on how your school district copes with an $800 million reduction in state aid to public education.
• If you’re a middle school student who dreams of attending a public university in Wisconsin, things just got harder. A budget provisions ends the Wisconsin Covenant on Sept. 30. The covenant promises college financial aid to middle school students who promise to stay out of trouble and earn decent grades. Anyone who signs up before Sept. 30 still could participate, but after that, no more.
• If you live in Milwaukee County or Racine and you’re fed up with the public schools, provisions in the state budget will help you. People who live in those areas can apply for state dollars to subsidize private education for their children starting Friday.
• If you’re down and out and need money pronto, you can again put your car up as collateral for a loan. The budget ends the state’s ban on auto title loans.
Win one for the Gipper
• If you’re a fan of former President Ronald Reagan, you’ll get a new day starting next winter to celebrate. A provision in the state budget establishes Feb. 6 as Ronald Reagan Day. It’s a symbolic measure to celebrate the Gipper’s birthday and has no impact on state spending.
• If you plan on working for the government, you’ll have to toil longer before you’re vested in the state retirement system. Under a measure Gov. Scott Walker inserted into the budget with his veto pen, new state and local government employees must work for five years to become vested in the system. Right now they immediately become vested.
Beer in flicks
• If you like suds with your movies, you might soon be able to kick back with a cold one (or two) in your favorite theater. The budget allows theaters to apply for liquor licenses.