The state Assembly sent a final draft of the 2015-17 biennial budget bill to Gov. Scott Walker’s desk, passing the roughly $70 billion budget 52-46 early Thursday morning.
Assembly Democrats drafted an amendment to change provisions regarding the UW System, but it was one of 31 amendments all shot down by the Republican majority. The final budget cuts $250 million from the UW System over two years and changes language related to shared governance and tenure
The amendment would have restored funding for the UW System and guaranteed tenure and shared governance protections remained in state statute. Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, is one of the lawmakers who backed the amendment.
“Our motion makes the investment that we should be making right now,” Taylor said.
Democrats argued cutting from the UW System and changing tenure protections in state statutes would deplete one of the state’s most important economic drivers and jeopardize academic freedom. Defenders of the changes maintain the language will not totally eliminate tenure and shared governance, but simply remove them from state statute.
Passage of the budget bill took longer than expected, blowing past the initial July 1 deadline. Walker is expected to announce a bid for the 2016 presidential election on Monday.
The bill faced some inner party debate on issues like transportation funding and funding for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena that delayed the bill in the Joint Finance Committee. 11 Assembly republicans broke ranks and voted against the budget because of these divides.
The budget draft next goes to Walker’s desk, where it will face one of the most powerful gubernatorial veto pens in the country. Walker has broad line item veto power, meaning the budget that becomes law could look different than the one passed by the Assembly.
Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a statement the budget is good for taxpayers.
“I am pleased that the Assembly gave final legislative approval to this solid budget that continues to reform Wisconsin and move our state forward,” he said. “The new two-year spending plan increases aid to K-12 schools, freezes UW tuition, fully funds SeniorCare and freezes property taxes.”