Although the Assembly debated for less than 15 minutes, Wisconsin state senators placed the budget bill on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk after 12 hours of debate Thursday.
With a vote held shortly after midnight Friday morning, the Senate voted 17-16 to pass the budget bill, which includes $650 million in income tax cuts for Wisconsin residents and an expansion of the school voucher program. Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, joined Democrats in voting against the bill.
In a statement Thursday, Schultz expressed his concerns about the budget, most of which stem from the non-fiscal related items in the budget, such as the removal of the Wisconsin Center of Investigative Journalism from the University of Wisconsin campus and the introduction of a commercial bail bond system after the state removed the system in 1979.
“There are over 90 items in this bill which the Legislative Fiscal Bureau has identified as non-fiscal, and they don’t belong,” Schultz said. “They don’t belong, because our party said so, and my constituents have reminded me of that fact as I’ve traveled around my district listing.”
Walker said in a statement, however, he looks forward to signing the bill, as it gives relief to Wisconsin residents and gives parents additional options for education.
Walker added the budget protects taxpayers from using insecure federal funds for health care.
“In addition, this budget reforms government to provide access to affordable health care options for everyone in Wisconsin and reduces the number of uninsured people by over 224,000,” Walker said. “These reforms strengthen Wisconsin’s safety net for those in need, while protecting our taxpayers from unnecessary risk and the fiscal uncertainty coming out of Washington, D.C.”
Although Walker is satisfied with the GOP revisions regarding health care, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families said in a statement the bill is not helping families and children with their health care needs.
According to the statement, the organization is disappointed with Walker’s rejection of using federal Medicaid funds and added the use of such funds could have strengthened BadgerCare in addition to saving taxpayers money.
While Democrats and some Republicans are critical of the budget, many Republicans say this bill puts Wisconsin in the right direction.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, a member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, said the bill puts Wisconsin on the path to recovery.
“The budget keeps Wisconsin open for business and on the right track,” she said.