After months of deliberation in the Assembly and Senate, the conference committee agreed on the final terms of the budget and sent it for Gov. Scott McCallum’s final approval.
156 days of partisan bickering precede the Republican-controlled Assembly passing the bipartisan agreement with a 73-22 vote and the Democratic-controlled Senate followed with a vote of 25-8.
Although passing the budget was a bipartisan effort, there are mixed feelings regarding the final result.
Gov. Scott McCallum, Senate Majority leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, State Senator Mary Panzer, R-West Bend, and Speaker of the House Scott Jensen, R-Brookfield worked to establish priorities for the budget at the beginning of the budget process.
“At the beginning of the budget process they laid out priorities, among these were smaller class sizes, funding for children with disabilities, a prescription drug plan for our seniors and holding the line on tax increases,” said Maureen McNally spokesperson for Panzer.
In a statement to the press, Panzer outlined the positive aspects of the budget including the priorities that were established.
“The budget passed by the conference committee today fulfills each of the commitments we made and does much, much more,” Panzer said. “We have fully funded the state’s SAGE program for smaller class sizes for the youngest students, fully funded the birth to three program, and created one of the most generous prescription drug programs in the nation. This budget also caps state spending, insuring that government growth will not outpace families’ ability to pay.”
Panzers opinion of the budget is not thwarted by many negative comments although she does acknowledge that the budget is not perfect.
“The budget isn’t perfect, but I believe it is representative of the priorities of Wisconsinites and those elected to represent them,” she said.
Senate President Fred Risser, D-Madison, agreed that the budget is not perfect; he said there were a number of both good and bad things.
“I have mixed feelings,” Risser said. “I voted for [the budget bill] because I thought it had more good than bad.”
Among the “good” provisions in the budget Risser noted funds for the University, the prescription drug plan and the SAGE program for smaller class sizes. The “bad” included such actions as the splitting of the Department of Natural Resources.
The budget has been through months of scrutinization and after all the debate and all the changes Risser said the budget cannot please everyone.
“It is a necessary document but it won’t be completely satisfactory to anyone,” he said.
The budget has one final step before it becomes law. McCallum now has veto power and will approve the budget likely with some changes in due time.
“The budget will be changed after the Governor has it,” Risser said. “It was introduced by the governor and it doesn’t look anything like the original.”
The final process has begun, McCallum has the budget and deliberations have commenced.
“By the end of next week we should have a pretty good idea of what he is going to do,” said Debbie Monterrey-Milett, spokesperson for McCallum. “It will be ready to sign the following week, the goal is to have everything done by the end of August.”