Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Legislator could combine 2 votes

As reports that legislative leaders might merge votes on the
budget deficit and the Great Lakes Compact flew through the Capitol Tuesday,
some lawmakers were up in arms Wednesday, calling it a “cynical ploy.”

Legislators read reports Wednesday that Assembly Speaker
Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, and Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker, D-Weston,
are thinking about combining ratification of the two bills.

Huebsch spokesperson John Murray said joining the two bills
would speed up the legislative process because rather than dealing with each
issue separately, the Legislature could decide on both during the same special


But lawmakers met the idea with hostility. In a letter to
Decker and Huebsch, Sen. Michael Ellis, R-Neenah, and Sen. Robert Cowles,
R-Green Bay, said it was a “cynical ploy and exactly the type of politics that
Wisconsin voters are getting tired of.”

Murray said Huebsch and Decker are glad to hear input from
fellow legislators, but the letter’s authors have not yet received any response
as to whether the merging of bills will go through or not.

“It’s probably not going to happen,” said Carrie Lynch,
Decker’s spokesperson. “But we definitely will vote on these two on the same

According to Rep. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, combining the
two bills would increase the likelihood of passing an unpopular budget repair
package by fiscal conservatives who strongly support the Great Lakes Compact.

Nass also wrote a letter to Huebsch asking for his public opposition
to any merger between the two bills, but has not heard back yet.

“To force legislators to vote in support of a proposal they
oppose because it is combined with a proposal they support is unfair to the
legislators and to their constituents,” Ellis and Cowles wrote.

Cowles added environmental policy should not be mixed in
with a completely unrelated fiscal issue, and he fears combining the two could
reduce otherwise strong support for the compact.

According to Shahla Werner, director of the John Muir
chapter of the Sierra Club, the Great Lakes Compact draws its support from both
political parties, and is strongest in constituencies closest to the lakes.

“Many legislators agree the compact is historic — it’s a
really big deal,” Werner said. “We have a lot to lose in Wisconsin, we have a
lot of resources at stake here.”

The compact would prevent Great Lakes water from being
diverted to alleviate water shortages in different regions of the world, which
could be detrimental to regional water supply and ecosystems.

If ratified by all of the states involved, it would grant the
federal government the power to manage Great Lakes resources.

However, some legislators from districts just outside the
protected region, the Great Lakes Basin, fear their access to the water could
be limited by the agreement.

Werner stressed the most important thing is for the compact
to pass and to pass soon, whether or not it is merged with a budget repair

But legislators are still unsure about the status of the
budget bill; Gov. Jim Doyle, Decker and Huebsch are in ongoing negotiations to
iron out remaining issues surrounding plans for repairing the budget shortfall
of more than $600 million. Murray said they hope to reach a consensus within two
to three weeks.

Murray added legislative leaders are now toying with the
idea of re-securing money from tobacco bonds to create huge amounts of initial
revenue at no cost to taxpayers.

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