MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Tuesday that the state should not have expanded the private school voucher program statewide or created a new private school tax deduction.
Calling the tax breaks and voucher spending "a new entitlement program that we don't need," Burke said at a luncheon hosted by the political website wispolitics.com that the state should not be subsidizing with taxpayer money the choice parents make to send their children to private school.
"I respect people's choice in making that (decision), but I don't think we should be subsidizing that choice," Burke said.
Expansion of the program was one of the top priorities of Republican Gov. Scott Walker last year. Walker proposed, and the Republican-controlled Legislature agreed, with increasing the voucher program outside of Milwaukee and Racine where it operated previously.
Burke, who is a member of the Madison school board, has made her opposition to vouchers a central part of her campaign taking on Walker as he runs for re-election.
Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said in an email that the governor "believes every child, regardless of ZIP Code, deserves access to a great education, and parents should have the right to choose the best educational environment for their children, whether it's a public, private, charter, or home school."
Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state Commerce Department secretary, said the voucher program is one of several budget cuts she would make if elected.
In addition to spending $10.7 million on the voucher expansion, the budget Walker signed last year also created a new $30 million tax deduction for private school tuition.
"We have to do budget decisions that are going to grow the economy, that are going to impact us positively and I think those were two new expenditures frankly that did neither," Burke said.
On other topics, Burke said she thought the state should play a stronger role in helping a sluggish economy. Burke said a state venture capital fund and other school investments didn't go far enough to spur future economic growth.
Burke said she recently met with Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of conservative Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. She said the meeting highlights her willingness to create bipartisanship in the Legislature, but didn't comment further about their talk. She said she would issue a jobs plan within a month.
She also criticized recent bills pending in the Legislature that would reduce the hours of in-person absentee voting and make other changes to election law.
"I am concerned that voter suppression is going to stop people from coming to the polls," Burke said.