Democrats accuse Kooyenga of lying about education cuts
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Democrats on Friday accused a Republican lawmaker running for a key state Senate seat of lying about cuts his party made to education.
Republican Rep. Dale Kooyenga said during a debate Wednesday that his party hasn’t cut education since 2011. But Democrats note that Republicans cut higher-education funding in both 2013 and 2015.
According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Republicans cut $792.2 million from K-12 education and $250 million from the University of Wisconsin System in the 2011-13 state budget. Kooyenga acknowledged those cuts during the debate, saying Republicans “were handed a checkbook that did not balance.” He said that since lawmakers approved that two-year budget in 2011, the GOP has made no cuts to education.
The Republican-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Scott Walker have actually increased funding for public schools in every succeeding budget, but they cut University of Wisconsin funding by nearly $66 million in the 2013-15 budget and by $250 million in the 2015-17 budget, according to the LFB, the Legislature’s nonpartisan budgetary agency.
Kooyenga campaign manager Patrick McNulty said in an email to The Associated Press that Kooyenga’s opponents are taking his words out of context and Kooyenga was clearly speaking about no cuts to K-12 education.
Kooyenga and Democrat Julie Henszy are running for an open Senate seat representing Milwaukee’s western suburbs. Republican Sen. Leah Vukmir has held the seat since 2011, but she decided to give it up to run for U.S. Senate this fall. Democrats are targeting the state district as they try to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans.
The State Senate Democratic Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the chamber, issued a news release Friday asking how the public can trust Kooyenga after his comments at the debate.
“If Rep. Kooyenga won’t be honest with voters and take ownership for his decisions, it’s time to elect someone new,” SSDC Executive Director Jenni Dye said in the release.
The SSDC accusations come days after Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling said Kooyenga looked drunk during a 2015 Assembly floor debate. Lawmakers on the night in question had drinks together at a bar across the street while the Capitol was evacuated for a bomb threat. Kooyenga has denied he was drunk. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that his opponents are desperate “because they don’t have me on the issues.”
A Capitol protester filed a federal lawsuit in October 2017 accusing Kooyenga of stealing a sign he had left in the Capitol rotunda. The man won a $30,000 settlement from the state. Kooyenga promised to reimburse the state in April and made the payment in July, less than 30 minutes after the Journal Sentinel ran a story questioning why he hadn’t followed through.