Assembly Takes First Crack at State Budget
The state Assembly Tuesday will begin deliberations on Gov. Scott Walker’s $68 billion spending plan for the next two years.
Some of the major items in the budget include an income tax cut, a statewide expansion of voucher schools and rejection of federal money for Medicaid programs.
Just like the last budget cycle, Republicans control both houses of the Legislature, along with the governor’s office. GOP Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend says overall he’s satisfied with the budget.
“We have a tax cut that will reduce the average Wisconsinite’s income tax by four percent. Statewide property taxes will go up under one percent in each of the next two years and we have a tuition freeze for two years at the UW, it’s about time we gave the young kids a break,” Grothman says.
Grothman sits on the Joint Finance committee. It spent weeks deliberating and making major additions to the budget. The finished product contains 94 policy items, including legalizing bounty hunters, and allowing police and firefighters to live outside of Milwaukee.
Democratic state Rep. Jon Richards calls the elimination of residency requirements a mistake and fears it would lead to a mass exodus from the city.
“It’s a real slap at local control and something that will hurt Milwaukee neighborhoods for years and years to come. I hope when people take a look at the consequences of eliminating residency, they’ll step back and say it’s important to stand with the state’s largest city,” Richards says.
Richards says during debate, Democrats will offer amendments, including one that would remove residency from the budget. He says the tax cut favors the wealthy and is outraged the budget contains a $10,000 tax deduction for parents who send their kids to private schools. Richards says Democrats are opposed to voucher expansion and want more money to go toward public schools.
There have also been rumblings some Republicans are not satisfied with various aspects and are considering voting against the budget. On Monday, state Rep. Steve Nass said he would reject the budget but did not say why. Earlier this month, eleven GOP members of the Assembly said they would not approve the budget unless it contained less borrowing and ordered removal of a provision to collect DNA from people arrested for felonies.
At a news conference Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson urged Republicans to join with Democrats in opposing the budget in its current form.
“We’re here to put out the welcome mat to those senators to put their money where their mouth is. If you dislike provisions in this budget or the budget overall please stand with Senate Democrats to build a middle class budget,” Larson says.
The GOP holds the majority in the Senate 18-15 and Democrats would need to persuade two Republicans to stop passage of the budget. Sen. Glenn Grothman says it’s unlikely to happen.
“I think usually Senate leadership likes to deal with Republicans who are dissatisfied in advance and we would collectively agree on amendments to get to our 17 votes in the Senate,” Grothman says.
Grothman agrees lifting residency requirements would hurt Milwaukee and voted against the provision in Joint Finance. He says he would vote in favor of an amendment to remove residency. The Assembly is expected to pass the budget in the next two days, with the Senate poised to deliberate on Thursday.