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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal is helping to unite Republicans and Democrats — in opposition to it.
As Walker touted his budget across the state on Wednesday, bipartisan resistance was growing to his plans to borrow $1.3 billion to pay for road construction and infrastructure projects, cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System, and pay for an expansion of the private school voucher program by taking money from public schools while holding their funding flat.
Walker's budget also slightly reduces property taxes for the owner of a typical home by $10 over the next two years, requires drug testing for public benefit recipients, cuts 400 positions from across state government and borrows $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium.
The governor is defending his plan as offering bold ideas to reshape government as he takes serious steps toward a likely presidential run — traveling across the country to court donors, meeting with conservatives and building his name recognition.
But back home in Wisconsin, unrest is growing among Republicans who control the Legislature about what Walker is asking them to pass in what will be his final budget before the 2016 campaign.
Republican lawmakers are particularly outspoken in their angst over increasing borrowing 30 percent to pay for roads, even though total bond issuance across state government would go down to its lowest level in a decade.
"The biggest heartburn I have in regards to the proposed budget is the amount of bonding," said budget committee member Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst. "I know there's a number of my colleagues who are quite concerned about that."
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who joined Tiffany to discuss the budget Wednesday at a meeting of the Wisconsin Counties Association, said he wants the Legislature to consider raising vehicle registration fees based on miles driven in order to pay for roads.
Walker's Department of Transportation had recommended $750 million in higher taxes and fees, including on gasoline and vehicle registrations, to pay for roads. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the statewide chamber of commerce and a strong supporter of Walker and Republicans, had supported a modest gas tax increase.
But Walker eschewed any tax or fee increases in favor of issuing more bonds.
His approach also drew criticism Wednesday from a coalition of more than 400 local governments, road builders and labor unions.
"Investing in an adequately funded, sustainable and equitable approach cannot be reached with the current budget proposal," the Transportation Development Alliance said in a statement.
Republicans are also joining Democrats in questioning the $300 million cut to UW. Walker's call to give the university more autonomy and freedom from state oversight, something university officials have lobbied for years to get, has been more well-received.
Vos said he was worried that the UW cut would make it more difficult for students to graduate in four years.
Walker's budget also would hold funding for public schools flat, while removing a cap on enrollment in the private school voucher program. Money to pay for new voucher students would come out of the budget of public schools that are losing students, and be prorated statewide based on applications instead of a set amount as it is now.
Voucher proponents said they were worried the new funding mechanism would lower the amount of the subsidy. Democrats, and state Superintendent Tony Evers, objected both to the program growing and the money being taken from public schools.
And lawmakers from both parties said they were worried about not increasing money for public schools. Walker holds that spending flat in order to pay for a promised property tax cut that would amount to $10 over the next two years for the owner of a median-valued home.
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