The state Assembly Wednesday advanced a budget for Wisconsin. The votes in favor were all Republican. Democrats voted against the package, with three GOP Assemblymen joining the opposition.
The budget is packed with changes. Among them – an income tax cut and a freeze on UW tuition. The Assembly also agreed with Gov. Walker to reject federal money to expand Medicaid to all people living at or below 133% of the poverty level. Here’s more about Assembly’s budget.
When it comes to K-12 education, the proposed budget expands the voucher program to the entire state, with caps on enrollment.
Until now, the program operated only in Milwaukee and Racine.
The budget increases public school spending by $150 per student per year, something school districts advocated.
As far as residency requirements are concerned - a hot button issue for Milwaukee, governments could no longer impose them.
However, public workers would have to reside within 15 miles.
In terms of law enforcement, police would have to collect DNA from everyone they arrest on suspicion of a felony.
Republican Robin Vos says the budget continues moving Wisconsin in the right direction.
“Governor Walker had one of the smallest structural deficits on record when he introduced the budget, and our finance team made it better. They worked very hard to try to ensure that the budget is balanced not just this time, which we all know certified by fiscal bureau, it not only balances, but it has a surplus at the end Vos says.
The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has found the state will have a surplus of $670 million as of July 1. However, when it comes time for the 2015-2017 budget, the agency predicts Wisconsin will face a shortfall of more than $500 million.
Republican Dean Kaufert says while he does not agree with everything in the Assembly version, he supports enough to vote in favor.
“There are some bad things in here, but with any budget, 90 percent of it, if you can get 90 percent good. If you can go back to the people back home and say there is a lot of good things in here, but you know what, in order to get those good things we had to accept some really questionable things, that happens,” Kaufert says.
A few Republicans disagreed. Representatives Steve Kestell, Howard Marklein and Steve Nass voted with Democrats against the plan.
Democratic leader Peter Barca said his party had prepared more than 200 amendments, but did not bother to introduce them, because GOP leaders intended to stick with their plan.
“Right up until last night, you continued to make deals with your special interest friends and ignored the vast majority of the citizens of this state. You’re going to continue a failed approach that had led us to having one of the worst economies in the entire country,” Barca says.
Over the past two days, Republicans made a number of changes to the budget. For example, they took out a provision to expand voucher schools in Racine, and another to keep protestors away from a proposed mine in northern Wisconsin.
The $68 billon two-year budget heads to the Senate later today.