Gov. Scott Walker called for the missing senators to return so the budget bill could pass and provide local services more than $1 billion in aid during a press conference Wednesday.
According to a Department of Administration memo, the bill must be passed by Feb. 25 in order for the debt refinancing provision to take effect, saving the state $165 million in the current fiscal year.
Walker said if the Democratic senators do not come back and refinancing cannot take place it would mean layoffs of 1,500 workers by July. Further down the road, without the savings provided by the budget repair bill, 10,000 to 12,000 state and local employees would lose their jobs in the next budget, Walker said.
“The budget repair bill, in anticipation of the budget coming out March 1, would provide $1.5 billion to local government, $1.44 billion to be exact,” Walker said.
The money would go to schools, municipalities, counties, technical colleges and special districts across the state.
Walker also said he would not reconsider the provision in his bill that allows state employee union members to skirt their dues to union leadership.
As the governor left, Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, squeezed through the crowd of reporters and cameramen to reach the podium and give an unofficial response to the speech.
“What you’ve just heard was unadulterated, complete nonsense,” shouted Hulsey over the noise of the crowd protesting outside the governor’s conference room.
Hulsey said refinancing the debt owed to Minnesota and the Patients Compensation fund would cost us $30 million next year and is no different than kicking a can down the road. Walker has often pointed out the past administration’s decisions to defer tough decisions for the future.
Despite being unable to proceed with the governor’s budget repair bill, Senate Republicans convened Wednesday to pass a bill to repeal police officer racial profiling requirements.
The bill would repeal a provision within former Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget last year that required police officers to note the racial makeup of the people they pull over at traffic stops.
The requirement had received criticism from law enforcement officials who said it led to longer traffic stop times and information duplication. One Milwaukee and three state police associations lobbied for repeal, and Republican supporters of the bill were pleased to remove burdens on law enforcement.
“I am pleased to remove big government mandate on local units of government, and free up officers’ time to focus on community safety, rather than unnecessary, repetitive paperwork,” Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said.
Still unable to vote on the budget bill because of the missing Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, wrote a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, asking him to return and continue business.
“Frankly, it’s long past time for you and your 13 colleagues to come back to work and do your job,” Fitzgerald said in the letter. “Negotiating through the media like this has got to stop.”
The 19 Republicans cannot vote on fiscal bills like the budget repair bill unless at least one Democrat is present for the Senate to have quorum.
With over 100 amendments sitting around waiting to be introduced as of Wednesday night, Assembly Democrats have kept the session going for almost two days by publicly dissecting the bill to make sure their Republican colleagues know every minutiae it entails.
The only amendment Republicans took seriously, spokesperson for Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee, Kevin Benish said, was to modify a provision in the budget repair bill that would result in the loss of nearly $47 million in federal transit funding. All Republicans voted against it.