MADISON (WITI) -- The Wisconsin budget passed the Assembly on Wednesday, June 19th with almost no debate after a surprise move by Democrats.
The $68 billion budget lays out a spending plan for the next two years and:
- Rejects federal Medicaid (BadgerCare) expansion money
- Cuts income taxes
- Freezes UW System tuition
- Expands school vouchers statewide
It is not what passed, but how it passed that had everyone talking at the state Capitol on Wednesday.
The Assembly was set for a full day of debate, when Democrats brought in a waist-high stack of amendments: 211 in all, that they said would propose to change the budget.
However, when the time came to offer those amendments, they offered something else -- the disturbing conclusion that no amount of debate was likely to change anyone's minds.
There was immediate confusion on the Assembly floor. The speaker was sorting things out on the phone as lawmakers wondered aloud if a vote was really happening.
Then, just minutes later, it was over -- and not a single amendment in the stack of 211 had been offered, much less debated.
The political maneuver sparked another kind of debate.
"This wasn't a stunt. This wasn't a joke. The joke is on the people of the state of Wisconsin and this is a day that we're incredibly angry and a day that we're very sad to see the direction that the majority party is taking our state. We are hardly retreating. What we have learned from the past few months in working with this majority is they fail to do anything beyond their rigid ideology," Rep. Sandy Pasch (D - Whitefish Bay) said.
"The democracy we live in means somebody wins, but it also means both sides have to participate in order to make democracy stronger. What they did today is say to anyone who voted for them in the past or digress with our policies, we're not even going to take the time to offer a competing vision for Wisconsin. If their perspective was to just sit down and not offer any reasons why the budget could be better, I don't understand that strategy," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R - Burlington) said.
The budget now moves to the Senate, where debate will begin on Thursday morning, June 20th.