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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Assembly passes budget in late night session

After 12 hours of debate that lasted until 5:30 a.m., the Democratic controlled Assembly passed their version of the 2009-11 state budget Saturday morning with all Republicans voting in opposition.

Debate was planned to begin Wednesday morning, but due to long hours of party caucuses revolving around more than 100 proposed amendments per party, debate began late Friday afternoon.

In the end, the Democratic majority passed more than 100 of their amendments to Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget and rejected all 131 amendments proposed by the Republicans members.


“Not surprisingly, when Democrats alone craft the entire budget, you get a very typical Democrat product,” said Minority Leader Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, in a statement. “The result of closed-door deals and votes by moonlight are increased spending, higher taxes, more social programs, dozens of pork projects and special-interest policy items aimed at helping their supporters.”

The budget was passed with a 50-48 vote, with all Republicans voting “no” along with Reps. Margaret Krusick, D-Milwaukee, and Bob Ziegelbauer, D-Manitowoc. The remaining Democratic representatives voted “yes” along with former Republican and now independent Rep. Jeff Wood, I-Chippewa Falls. Rep. Nick Milroy, D-Superior, was absent from debate due to his wife’s recent hospitalization.

The Democratic plan cut $3.2 billion in state spending, leading to a $62.2 billion spending budget, which Democrats expect will resolve the projected $6.6 billion budget shortfall.

“We passed a common-sense plan that reduces state spending by $3.2 billion, protects the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin workers and families from income, sales and payroll tax increases, and shields our most important priorities like education, health care and public safety from the deepest cuts,” said Speaker Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville in a statement.

Important Democratic amendments

Of the over 100 proposed amendments to Doyle’s 2009-11 budget passed by the Assembly Democrats, a few are of note.

One amendment gets rid of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Nursing building project, which amounts to about $28 million in funds as well as about $47 million from related projects. The item was inserted by state Sen. Judy Robson, D-Beloit, but was not included in UW’s capital budget request.

Another requires veterans in the UW System to use federal education benefits, such as those provided by the Montgomery G.I. Bill and the Reserve Education Assistance Program, before requiring them to use their federal Post-9/11 G.I. Bill funding, while reimbursing the students for the difference in aid between the two.

The Democrats also prohibited the state from using private contractors or consultants to fill the duties of those preformed by state employees during hiring freezes or unpaid leaves of absence, otherwise known as furloughs.

Another amendment restores all funds that were cut from the Department of Justice by the Joint Finance Committee as part of increased across-the-board agency reductions. In total, this amounts to more than $5.4 million annually.

The new budget also modifies the exceptions to the new Wisconsin state-wide smoking ban to include not only cigar bars, casinos and specialty tobacco shops, but also anywhere were cigarettes and tobacco products and accessories are sold, known in the bill as “retail tobacco stores.”

The budget also approves and establishes a Southeastern Transit Authority, Milwaukee Transit Authority, Chippewa Valley Regional Transit Authority, Fox Valley Regional Transit Authority and Dane County Regional Transit Authority.

As for taxes, the Democrats included a corporate income and franchise tax expected to bring in revenue of $6 million, a cigar tax of 50 cents per cigar estimated to bring in $920,000, and an oil company profits tax of 2 percent on vehicle fuel suppliers which will bring in $35.9 million. However, lawmakers removed the portion of the tax that would have prohibited oil companies from passing on costs to the consumer.

These taxes are in addition to others included in the budget by the Joint Finance Committee, including a 75 cent tax on all phones, increased property taxes, and a variety of other fee hikes. Overall, the new budget includes a $2.1 billion increase in tax and fees.

Moving on

With the budget passed in the Assembly, it will now move onto the state Senate for amendments, deliberation and voting.

The Democrats also have control of the Senate, making it the first time since the early 1980s since they controlled the Legislature and the governor’s seat.

The Senate is expected to vote on the budget sometime next week. If their budget differs from the Assembly’s, then a special committee of legislators will be called to reach a compromise.

The budget will then go back to Doyle, who will either approve the budget or make use of partial veto powers to make additional changes.

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