Assembly Passes State Budget, Hulsey Offers Only Democrat Amendment

Barca Gives 30 Minute Floor Speech, Is Only Democrat to Speak Against Budget

MacIver News Service | June 19, 2013

[Madison, Wisc…] The Assembly passed the their version of the 2013-2015 budget on Wednesday, but in a stunning surprise, Assembly Democrats decided not to offer any amendments on Wednesday to the state budget and only Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) spoke out against the bill.

The original debate was expected to last for 12.5 hours with the vote coming at 5:30pm on Wednesday. Democrats had prepared over 200 amendments, but none were ever introduced, except for an amendment from Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison) on Tuesday.

Hulsey’s amendment would have increased spending by $1.5 billion on top of the Joint Finance approved budget and hiked bonding by $700 million. His spending amendments included $330 million in raises for state workers and another $792 million for K-12 public schools.

Barca spoke on the floor of the Assembly for over 30 minutes about his distain for the state budget before calling for an immediate vote.

“We are deeply concerned, we’re truly troubled by where our state is going with this budget. And we are even sickened by the impact when you look at healthcare and other elements in this budget.” Barca said in his floor speech that the budget is “going to continue a failed approach that has led us to having one of the worst economies in the country.”

With little debate from Republicans, the budget was passed as amended 55-42. Three Republicans voted in opposition: Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake), Rep. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green), and Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater).

The technical amendment proposed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) and Majority Leader Rep. Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) will make many corrections in the budget to clarify specific provisions.

However, the technical amendment will also make some substantial policy changes.

The amendment will delete a provision that limited the extent of the Veterans and Surviving Spouses tax credit.

It also amends the budget so that the Legislature may not pass any bill with general fund expenditures that exceed estimated revenues in the second year of any fiscal biennium. However, that provision will not apply to the 2013-2015 biennium, meaning that the current legislature will not be restricted on their spending.

Vos applauded the passage of the budget, calling the final product “fantastic.”

“The budget does not raise taxes, in fact it cuts them by the largest amount in well over a decade. Property taxes are effectively frozen for the median value households statewide. The budget doesn’t have any new employees, in fact it would have less state employees at the end of the two year period than when it began.” Vos said after the bill passed.

“[The budget] freezes tuition for kids going to the university all at the same time while making a huge investment in public education all around the state. It also gives more options to every family of moderate means in Wisconsin that participate in a small program, hopefully growing over time, to allow school choice to expand statewide.”

The budget bill was immediately messaged to the Senate after passage. The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the budget at 10am on Thursday.