Wisconsin Senate sends state budget to Gov. Walker

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MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Senate passed the state budget on Friday 11 weeks after it was due thanks to a last-minute deal with reluctant Republicans, sending the $76 billion spending plan to Gov. Scott Walker who promised to make several unspecified vetoes to secure the deal.

It took some late promises and a phone call from Walker, who is in South Korea, to convince three Republican senators to switch from opposition to support of the spending plan. Republicans were one vote short of the 17 needed to approve the $76 billion plan before the deal with Walker was struck.

The Senate voted 19-14 to pass the budget, with all Republicans except Sen. David Craig, from the Town of Vernon, in favor and all Democrats against. Craig, who represents a safe Republican district in the conservative Milwaukee suburbs, had objected to overall spending increases.

Details of the agreement that secured the needed votes were to be released Friday night and center around a list of nine demands the senators had made Wednesday, said Sen. Chris Kapenga, of Delafield.

Those demands from Kapenga along with Sens. Steve Nass and Duey Stroebel included speeding up repeal of the prevailing wage and doing away with a provision that did away with local control over rock quarries that produce material for road and construction work.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos declared their demands a “ransom note” and refused to consider amending the budget to make the changes. The Senate didn’t vote to make any amendments to the budget, either, leaving Walker’s veto as the only way to change the spending plan.

Walker said on Wednesday he would be fine with moving up repeal of the prevailing wage from September 2018 to Jan. 1 or earlier. Walker also said he would support finding more savings at the Department of Transportation to win votes for the budget.

Walker could sign the plan and issue vetoes as early as next week. The budget was due on July 1, but current spending continued during the impasse. Wisconsin one of only two states with a July 1 deadline that still doesn’t have a budge enacted.

The Assembly passed the budget late Wednesday night and the Senate made no changes to it.

The massive bill dictates spending for K-12 schools, Medicaid, the University of Wisconsin and the rest of state government through June 30, 2019.

Under the plan, property taxes would decrease $23 on the typical home over the next two years, tuition is frozen for two years at UW campuses and K-12 schools would see a nearly 6 percent increase in state funding. Property taxes paid by small businesses would be eliminated.

The budget also eliminates the alternative minimum tax, which primarily benefits the wealthy, raises fees on hybrid and electric cars and borrows $400 million for roads but doesn’t find a long-term funding solution to keep construction projects on track.

Democrats called the budget a failure, saying Republicans didn’t do enough to help schools, roads and the working class and instead prioritized the wealthy. All Democratic amendments, which they argued made the budget more fair, were rejected.

“It’s shameful, this budget,” said Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor, of Milwaukee, a member of the Legislature’s budget committee. “There’s no other way to put it.”

Governor Scott Walker released the following statement on the passing of the budget:

““Thank you to the members of the State Senate for approving our budget that will put more actual dollars into K-12 education than ever before. We are providing historic increases in funding for our public schools and we are lowering property taxes for the typical home at the same time. This budget proves you can do both, and I look forward to signing it into law soon. We are working and winning for Wisconsin.”

In addition, Governor Walker agreed to veto the following budget items after discussions with the Wisconsin State Senate:

  • Modifications to Public Finance Authority
  • Initial Applicability of the Repeal of Prevailing Wage Law
  • Transportation Projects Commission Changes
  • Transfer of Segregated Funds (WisDOT Fed Swap)
  • Tolling Implementation Study
  • Energy Efficiency Revenue Limit Adjustment
  • School District Referenda Scheduling
  • State Capitol Basement Renovations
  • Local Regulation of Quarries – Governor Walker is vetoing this item because he believes changes of this magnitude should be addressed in separate legislation.

All vetoes, including full summaries, will be included in the governor’s veto message.””

The Republican Party of Wisconsin released the following statement on the passing of the budget:

“Today’s vote from the Wisconsin State Senate sends a conservative budget to Governor Scott Walker’s desk. By cutting taxes and making record investments into our classrooms, Republican leaders in the Legislature and Governor Scott Walker are teaming up to make sure our state continues working and winning. The Republican Party of Wisconsin released the following statement from Chairman Brad Courtney:

“Governor Walker and the Republican leaders in the State Senate are fighting for hard-working Wisconsinites. The conservative budget that the Legislature is sending to the governor’s desk cuts taxes and makes historic investments in our schools. Thanks to the bold leadership of Republicans in Wisconsin, our future is bright.”

State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) issued the following statement:

“This is an outstanding budget and one of the best I’ve ever worked on.  Despite the delay, we are delivering a budget that benefits everyone in the state.

This budget makes the largest real dollar investment in K-12 education ever. That means real money going into classrooms.  We are giving more parents control over their children’s education by letting them choose the best options for their child.

With major employers like IKEA, Haribo, and Foxconn choosing to locate in Wisconsin.  We are making major investments in worker training so our workforce is ready for the family-supporting careers that are heading our way.  By continuing the tuition freeze, we are keeping our outstanding UW System schools affordable.

We continue to work to make it more affordable to live, work, and retire in Wisconsin.  Taxpayers will see $11.6 billion in tax relief.  The average property tax bill this year will be lower than it was in 2010 and 2014.  This budget doesn’t just cut taxes, it begins the phase out the personal property and eliminates the forestry mill, alternative minimum tax, and the soda water tax!  Three taxes, gone.

I’m particularly proud of the investment we are making in protecting our most vulnerable citizens.  Wisconsin will soon be the only state in the nation to end the wait list for long-term supports for disabled children.  We are investing more than $40 million in wage increases for Personal Care and Family Care workers. More working mothers will able to take promotions because we are eliminating the fiscal cliff in Wisconsin shares.

The budget will help shield taxpayers from any economic uncertainty. With $284 million in our rainy day fund, we are setting aside nearly $200 million in the ending balance of the budget.

This is a great budget that will continue to keep our great state headed in the right direction.  On Wisconsin!”

State Senator Van Wanggaard released the following statement:

“I am happy to vote for a budget that provides a record investment in K-12 education, eliminates waiting lists for 2,200 children with disabilities, freezes tuition at UW Schools, and provides additional funding for special education and mental health. These priorities are shared by a majority of Wisconsinites.

These investments are made while still delivering meaningful tax relief. In 2014, I campaigned on eliminating the state forestry property tax, which hits every homeowner. In this budget, I deliver on that promise. In addition, we finally begin the elimination of the job-killing personal property tax, and completely eliminate the alternative minimum tax. Property taxes on the average home will be lower than in 2010 and 2014, meeting another campaign promise.

Locally, we give Racine Unified another year to try to turn the district around, while ensuring there are consequences if they do not succeed. Along with the Foxconn bill, we restart the I-94 North-South project after 6 long years, and fund repairs and expansions at UW-Parkside and Gateway Tech.

As with any budget, there are items I disagree with, and items that didn’t make the cut that were deserving. On the whole, the positives in this budget, record K-12 education funding, caring for our sick and vulnerable, delivering property tax relief and completely eliminating 2 whole taxes, greatly outweigh any negatives.”

Wisconsin State Senator LaTonya Johnson (D – Milwaukee) made the following statement regarding passage of the budget:

“Our state budget is a moral document that should reflect our values and priorities as a state. It should treat people with dignity and respect, provide our communities with real opportunities to succeed, and invest in our future generations. Unfortunately, this budget put forward by Governor Walker and approved today by Senate Republicans puts a divisive political agenda before the well-being of Wisconsin’s children and families.

“Today, I joined my fellow Senate Democrats to offer common-sense amendments that better prioritize our tax dollars. These proposals would create a more fair economy, expand opportunities by investing in our future, prioritize the health of our citizens, and give students the best possible opportunity to get ahead with a quality education. Not surprisingly, Senate Republicans turned down every single one of our amendments while being held hostage by extreme demands by members of their caucus to end diversity training on our university campuses.

“This budget rigs the system for the rich and wealthy on the backs of individuals and families who are among our most vulnerable and in-need. Rather than rob our communities and degrade those who are fighting to make ends meet, I will continue to fight for a Wisconsin that creates pathways for our youth and families to thrive and succeed.”

State Senator Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) released the following statement:

“Republicans passed the highest spending state budget in the history of the state while families were out enjoying a Friday night fish fry. Unfortunately, despite spending nearly $76 billion, the budget fails to implement policies that create the fairness, opportunities, and initiatives that strengthen our communities that the people of Wisconsin want.

Rather, it doubles down on the failed Republican policies of prioritizing giveaways to wealthy special interests at the expense of the middle class, local schools, or tax fairness. It fails to build an economy that works for everyone or even protect our natural resources.

Seventy-two hours ago the legislature voted to give away $3 billion to a Chinese corporation. It was the largest taxpayer giveaway to a foreign company in American history. Today we couldn’t even solve our long term transportation funding problem. From the largest city to the smallest township I represent they have all asked for a funding solution for our transportation system or to simply “just fix it.” This budget does not fix it. It just kicks the can down the road for another two years.

This budget short changes the hard working people of Wisconsin in favor of the wealthy and well-heeled special interest groups.”

Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) released the following statement:

“The budget that was passed today reflects a disconnect between Wisconsin’s needs and GOP priorities. While Republicans remembered to include a $4 million giveaway for a tiny airport near a donor’s golf course, the GOP forget our children, our roads, and the vital services our communities depend on,” said Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).

“Our schools have faced historic cuts under Governor Walker and this budget fails to make whole what Walker has taken away.”

Senator Taylor voiced frustration at Senate Republicans for their failure to keep Walker’s slash-and-crash policies at bay.

“The GOP did little to nothing to spare Wisconsinites from Walker’s far-right agenda. From mandating drug tests for health care to non-compliance with the Federal Prison Rape Elimination Act, the GOP marched in tandem with the Governor to neglect and reject best-practices that other states have already figured out.”

Senator Taylor also commented on the Walker economy, which has trailed national private sector job creation for 23 consecutive quarters.

“It’s shameful,” exclaimed Taylor. “There’s no other way to put it. The Walker economy is a losing economy, and Wisconsinites are paying the price.”

Senator Chris Larson released the following statement on the budget passage:

“We all are deeply concerned about our communities and our children’s future. Wisconsin families, friends, and neighbors are being left behind by Walker and state Republicans. Whereas my Democratic colleagues and I proposed ideas to strengthen our communities, reward hard work, and invest in our kids’ future, Republicans in the Senate sold Wisconsin to the highest bidder.

“Democrats offered several ideas that would supported Wisconsin working families by restoring the desperately needed funds that have been slashed from our kids’ schools the last few years, protecting our tax dollars by holding voucher schools accountable, and creating common sense paths to economic security.

“In addition, our budget amendments would have protected our children from being poisoned from lead by investing in lead abatement. We also would have provided greater health and financial security for our neighbors at no cost to the state through our BadgerCare buy-in amendment.

“Our amendments would have protected our neighbors’ personal data, by letting them keep it private. Our amendments would have helped those facing opioid addiction. Our amendments would have restored integrity in our elections, a Wisconsin tradition that has crumbled under one of the most-corrupt governor’s in our state’s history.

“Not only did each of these common sense amendment get rejected by the Republican majority, they largely refused to even defend their votes.
“This $76 billion betrayal of our values is a further slide away from where the great state of Wisconsin once was.”