After months of deliberation, Governor Scott McCallum signed the state budget into law this week.
The budget process began in February when McCallum announced a budget with the lowest increase in spending ever seen in Wisconsin.
Following the announcement, the budget was scrutinized by both the state Senate and the Assembly. The Senate and Assembly finished talks in early July and sent the budget to McCallum for final vetoes.
Mixed feelings existed about the version of the budget sent to McCallum.
Senate President Fred Risser, D-Madison, said the budget cannot realistically please everyone.
“It is a necessary document, but it won’t be completely satisfactory to everyone”? he said.
State Sen. Mary Panzer, R-West Bend, agreed, saying the budget was not ideal but was what the state of Wisconsin needed.
“The budget isn’t perfect, but I believe it is representative of the priorities of Wisconsinites and those elected to represent them,” she said.
In February McCallum, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison, Panzer and Speaker of the House Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha, set priorities for the budget.
“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,” Maureen McNally, spokeswoman for Panzer, said.
All of these issues were addressed in the final budget, making it satisfactory for those involved.
Although the July 1 deadline has come and gone, the state can still run on the old budget for the time being. The fiscal year ends June 31, and the budget was therefore set to be complete by July 1. In the case that the budget is not complete the state continues to run on the budget for the previous biennium. However, controversy surrounds this issue because appropriate funds are not allocated and the state goes into debt with each day the budget is not passed.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin called attention to the fact that each day past the deadline, the state loses $49,000 due to inappropriate allocation of funds for the new fiscal year. As of August 10 the state had already lost $735,000 due to McCallum’s failure to sign the budget.
Jim Ale, spokesman for McCallum, said that McCallum was aware of this loss of money.
“He was the one who brought it up,” Ale said. “He expressed concern about this issue when the legislators were working on the budget.”
Despite the expressed concern, McCallum did nothing to hurry the process along, because of his desire to examine each section of the budget.
McCallum failed to sign the budget earlier because of the time limit established by the Senate and the Assembly. Debbie Monterrey-Millett, press secretary for McCallum, said he was using all of the time to analyze the budget carefully.
“Under the state Senate’s own resolution, Governor McCallum has 30 days to sign the budget, which he is using to save taxpayer money, not waste it,” she said. “Forty-three million [dollars] were already cut out of the budget, and he is still finding additional ways to make financial folds.”
McCallum has the power to veto any part of the budget he sees fit. He has been working since the culmination of the Senate and Assembly process in July to veto sections he deems unnecessary.