Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Where does Mary Burke really stand?

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Over at the MacIver Institute, I examined Madison school board member Mary Burke’s lone dissenting vote on the school district budget. I found her explanation of her vote especially lacking since it was a reversal of her position from the previous year:

Burke gave few explanations for voting no on the tax levy and the budget. In an email to the Wisconsin State Journal, she wrote, “The superintendent is on the right track and I’m impressed by the progress she has made, but given the projected cut in state funding and the increase in the local tax levy, I don’t think this budget meets that test of balance.”

The Wisconsin State Journal reports Burke “didn’t respond to a follow-up question about what she wanted done differently.” Burke also did not respond to an email request for an interview for this article.

Her position is a reversal from last year when she supported a 4.95 percent increase in the tax levy. Of the previous budget, she even expressed concern that the district was pushing spending into the future. She said at the meeting, “I think we’re sort pushing a lot into the future that we are going to have a very hard time dealing with next year.” (The tax levy in the 2012-2013 budget only increased by 1.75 percent after an increase in state aid, but that was after Burke voted for the 4.95 percent increase.)

It’s hard to judge Burke’s vote this year without an understanding of what she meant by a, “test of balance.” However, earlier this year Burke was quoted in the Capital Times saying she did not want the proposed tax increase to be more than the rate of inflation.

“I think in an environment where we’ve seen real wages in Dane County decrease, and a lot of people are on fixed incomes, we have to work as hard as possible to limit any increase to the inflation rate.”

So if she had a hard time cutting the budget last year and feels that spending was pushed into this year and the future of the district, what did Burke want to cut out of the budget to meet her supposed goal of a tax increase less than inflation?

Burke did say to the Capital Times that she wanted to hold off on any salary increases until October when the final aid numbers were known. She also said that the increases should be part of the collective bargaining process, and that she was opposed to an across the board increase.

There was no indication of what else Burke would have cut from the district budget to meet her goal. Nor is there any explanation why this year was different than the previous year when she supported higher taxes.

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