Legislature Passes Budget, Sends it to Governor Walker

MacIver News Service | June 16, 2011

[Madison, Wisc….]  When the Wisconsin State Senate passed the 2011-13 state budget Tuesday at 10 pm by a 19-14 party line vote it marked the end of a legislative process that began three months earlier.

The June 16th completion date is the earliest passage of a Wisconsin state budget in decades and if projections hold, the budget will erase the state’s multi billion-dollar deficit and leave lawmakers with a surplus to contend with in 2013.

State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) says the budget sends a strong message to job creators.

“In the six months, we’ve managed to clean up the mess that was made of our finances over the last eight years,” Darling said, “This budget delivers real reform, protects taxpayers during these tough economic times and provides a stable environment to grow jobs.”

Senator Darling says the budget protects and funds important programs like SeniorCare, Family Care, recycling and provided more money for school kids.  Senator Darling says the budget delivers on her promises to taxpayers.

“For the first time in a long time, Wisconsin is back in the black,” Darling said, “We dug ourselves out of a $3.6 billion deficit left by Governor Doyle and the Democrats, protected our most vulnerable and did it without raising taxes – Just like we promised.”

Governor Walker and legislative Republicans said earlier this year they were determined to close the state’s $3 billion two-year shortfall without raising taxes. To do so they passed significant cuts in aid to schools and local governments; cuts, they contend, that can be eased by imposing wage and benefit concessions on government employees under a new law recently upheld by the State Supreme Court.

Democrats blasted Republicans for the plan, saying it showed misplaced priorities.

“The Republicans continued making their bad choices right to the end; cutting more money from schools but continuing to pay bad cops like those that beat Frank Jude,” said Milwaukee State Senator Lena Taylor. “The GOP priorities are all messed up when spending taxpayer dollars on crooked cops is more important than our schools.”

Jude was a Wisconsin man who was severely beaten by off-duty Milwaukee police officers in 2004. The current budget reinstates a provision that allows suspended police officers to receive pay while their cases are pending. (In the Jude case a state trial ended with the jury acquitting the three police officers charged, but a subsequent federal investigation led to plea agreements with three police officers and the indictment of five officers, including the three who were earlier acquitted in state court.)

Republicans said that, in general, the budget is a responsible document that fixes the mistakes of the past. They charge that Democrats would have continued the tax and borrow ways of previous budgets to pay for increased spending they desired.

“From the beginning to end, Democrats were more interested in increasing spending,” said State Representative Robin Vos (R-Rochester). “During the budget debate in the Assembly, Democrats offered up 39 amendments which would’ve increased spending by $2.1 billion over the next two years.”

Vos said simply increasing spending is not the cure to Wisconsin’s budget woes.

“We all know that you can’t spend your way to prosperity,” said Vos. “We can continue to make smart fiscal decisions to move the state forward.”

The budget now heads to Governor Scott Walker (R), who will review the document and assess it for potential vetoes. Even though lawmakers limited the veto power in recent years, the Wisconsin governor still has the most broad veto authority of any governor in the country.

Walker has said he will sign the budget before the current fiscal year ends on June 30.