Wisconsin Assembly Sends Budget to Senate Where Fate Remains Unkown

Sep 14, 2017

The Wisconsin State Assembly late last night passed a $76 billion budget that is now headed to the state Senate, where it is unclear whether Republicans have the vote. 

The new fiscal year began on July 1, and since then, the state has been operating on the previous budget. The Assembly debated for 11 hours on Wednesday, and as expected, Democrats introduced a number of amendments, all of which were rejected by Republicans.

Early on in the debate, it became pretty clear what the day was going to be like for both sides as they disagreed on eliminating the alternative minimum tax paid by high earners in the state while failing to increase the earned income tax credit, which benefits low income families.

Dems and Republicans also faced off the elimination of the prevailing wage requirement for government projects and, of course, education. Democratic Representative Cory Mason’s district covers Racine. He said state lawmakers should not be debating in the budget a plan that would allow municipalities to secede from the Racine Unified School District.

“That impact will be to create potentially two districts. One that is whiter and more affluent in the villages and one that has more poverty and more diversity in the city. And that is going to have a disparate impact by race for English language learners and for kids with disabilities. So you can’t just say it’s just about taxpayers. What you are proposing here today is a new era of racial segregation in our schools,” Mason said.

However, Republican and Speaker of the House Robin Vos disagreed: "In 2015-2016, African American students in the Racine Unified district 67 percent are below basic, 25 percent are at basic, literally 10 percent are proficient or above. Ten percent. Ten percent. Sixty Seven percent below basic in English. In math, it’s actually worse."

Vos went on to say that it’s not Jim Crow that’s hurting students, it’s a failing school district.

When it comes to the overall budget, a handful of Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the proposal making the final vote 57 to 39.

As for the Senate, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says that he doesn’t yet have the votes to approve the budget. Republican members of the Assembly knew this ahead of time, but were still unwilling to make any concessions what would have made the budget more palatable for their peers in the Senate. Speaker Robin Vos also said yesterday that the Assembly would not be quick to take up any changes made by the Senate.