Reaction To Senate Passage of the 2015-2017 State Budget

The State Senate passed the 2015-2017 state budget late Tuesday night on an 18-15 vote. All Senate Republicans except Rob Cowles of Green Bay voted in favor of the $73.4 billion dollar (all funds) two-year budget. All Senate Democrats voted against passage. The budget bill, Senate Bill 21, now heads to the Assembly. Below is a sampling of reactions to the budget bill:

Passage of Budget

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“This budget doesn’t raise income, sales, or property taxes and keeps Wisconsin’s property taxes on a downward trend. This plan bonds at the lowest level in at least 20 years while still protecting the completion of the Zoo Interchange and funding needed for higher education buildings for chemistry labs and nursing training facilities.”

-Alberta Darling, State Senator (R)

“Late at night, before Independence Day weekend, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) shoved various last-minute ‘Tea Party wish list’ items into the state budget proposal with the passage of a 999 motion. The 999 motion includes undemocratic, unconstitutional policies that have got to receive public scrutiny, such as dramatically changing the powers and authority of the Milwaukee county board and county executive. The motion even repeals a 100-year-old law that states Wisconsin’s minimum wage must be a living wage.”

-Chris Larson, State Senator (D)

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“While I understand that all budgets have some amount of policy, it is always best to keep those policy items to a minimum. Unfortunately, this budget has an excessive amount of policy in it. By my count there are nearly 140 non-fiscal items contained in this budget. All of those items, could, and should, be introduced and debated as separate legislation. For that reason, I could not in good faith vote in favor of this budget.”

-Robert Cowles, State Senator (R)

“The Wisconsin Senate today had an opportunity to make significant improvements to a budget that contains some of the most extreme and harmful provisions for middle class families I’ve seen in my years as a legislator. I and my colleagues offered amendments that would have reversed the disastrous cuts this budget makes to the University of Wisconsin and helped bring our public schools back up to the level of funding they had five years ago.”

-Julie Lassa, State Senator (R)

“One of the marquee aspects of this budget is that the Legislature cut bonding from the Governor’s proposed $1.5 billion mark to $652 million. “Both the Senate and Assembly understood that piling on unnecessary bond debt to feed Wisconsin’s transportation fund was not the answer that our hardworking citizens were looking for.”

-Rick Gudex, State Senator (R)

“In the last few weeks of the budget process, this budget went from not great for conservation, to really bad. Legislators tossed in policy after policy – many that have no budget implications but have very real consequences for Wisconsin’s environment and public health.”

-Kerry Schumann, Executive Director of Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters

Health Care and Long Term Care

“SeniorCare was saved so seniors could continue to receive the prescriptions they need, and we came up with a new and improved plan to strengthen and sustain our long-term care program. More money was put into programs to help women with health screenings, and we allocated an addition $650 million in Medical Assistance.”

-Tom Tiffany, State Senator (R)

“In the end the JFC understood the need for stakeholders to have a voice in long- term care issues. We are pleased to see the JFC make changes to the budget that allow for much more public input and transparency in the process. We were also glad that legislators saw the value of Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) in each county and agreed to save them in the budget.”

-Helen Marks Dicks, AARP Wisconsin’s State Issues Advocacy Director

K-12 Education Funding

“I have remained steadfast in my commitment to K-12 education. We restored K-12 funding by $150 per pupil in the first year and added an extra $100 per pupil in the second year, an added investment of $196 million over the biennium. We were committed to going above and beyond restoring funds to K-12 education.”

-Leah Vukmir, State Senator (R)

“The legislative fiscal bureau has given us an estimate that over the next ten years, that’s $800 that will be taken from our public schools and syphined off into private school vouchers. We can’t afford to subsidize that education from public school dollars.” (Source: WXOW, July 6, 2015, Caroline Hecker)

-Jill Billings, State Assemblywoman (D)

“We heard the call, and fulfilled our promise, to restore funding to K-12 education by putting over $200 million back into education.”

-Tom Tiffany, State Senator (R)

“While parents and families have said they want education to be a top priority for our state, Legislative Republicans continue to cut our schools and waste hundreds of millions on tax breaks for special interests. It’s time to put Wisconsin families first, restore the cuts to our schools and invest in the future of our state.”

-Jennifer Shilling, State Senator (D)

Open Records Law

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“I believe an open and transparent government is essential. I also think that protecting the privacy of those that contact my office for assistance is important.” (Source: GazetteXtra, July, 4 2015, Catherine Idzerda)

-Amy Loudenbeck, State Assemblywoman (R)

“While Republican leaders and Governor Walker are patting themselves on the back for now agreeing to remove a provision that they themselves inserted into the budget bill to shield themselves from the state’s Open Records Law, the public and press should not forget this betrayal of the public trust.”

-Fred Risser, State Senator (D)

“In the future, any consideration of changes to the open records law should take place in public and with the public, and should focus on increasing openness and transparency rather than the opposite.”
-Mark Pitsch, President, SPJ Madison; Joe Radske, Director, SPJ Region 6

Prevailing Wage Reform

“I believe it is important that the State of Wisconsin eliminates its prevailing wage laws. That is why I led the efforts to introduce Assembly Bill 32, the bill to completely repeal prevailing wage. While it appears that a statewide repeal will not happen this session, I want to support any effort to get to complete repeal as soon as possible. That is why I support and am co-authoring a repeal plan drafted by Senator Lasee which will repeal prevailing wage for all local units of government, including school districts. I believe this reform will significantly benefit Wisconsin taxpayers.”

-Rob Hutton, State Assemblyman (R)

“We need to make decisions that put more money in the pockets of working families, not less like repealing living wage and prevailing wage laws. We need to bring our taxpayer’s money back to Wisconsin instead of letting it be used in Illinois and Arizona for the health of their people.”

-Jon Erpenbach, State Senator (D)

“While I co-authored a bill this session repealing the prevailing wage law, I accept the fact that differences in opinion are preventing us from passing that legislation. As a result, I fully support the Lasee-Hutton plan. I favor the proposal that gets us closest to full repeal, and right now this is that proposal. I owned a landscaping company for the better part of 20 years, so I know first-hand the financial harm prevailing wage laws cause to our taxpayer-funded projects. This plan will produce substantial savings for taxpayers and it also goes a long way in removing the barriers that make it difficult for small and minority-owned firms to participate in public contracts.”

-Joe Sanfelippo, State Assemblyman (R)
“Here goes my allegedly-illegal statement on the budget; ‘I will not vote in favor of any budget that does not have real prevailing wage reform, including the removal of all local entities from the provisions of this law’. There, I got it off my chest, and I feel totally refreshed that I am taking a position that may not be favored by some special interest groups, but will save the taxpayers of this state as much as $300,000,000. Yes, even in Madison, WI, $300 million of taxpayer’s relief is worth going to jail for.”

-Bob Gannon, State Assemblyman (R)

“Prevailing wage reform provides a real solution to a real funding problem. The state has kicked the can on transportation funding for over a decade and yet, we continue to borrow and spend. Responsible citizens must live within their means. As a legislator, I demand that we budget within our means as a state. At times, this may require bold reforms. The elimination of the state’s prevailing wage law would remove artificial state intervention on public works projects, allowing smaller contractors to bid on projects, give schools with building referendums (such as Campbellsport) real savings and provide our counties and municipalities with long- overdue relief on local road projects.”

-Jesse Kremer, State Assemblyman (R)

“Prevailing wage repeal has been my priority since taking office in April. Like Act 10, the repeal of prevailing wage provides another tool for local governments to be good stewards of our valued taxpayer resources. As a Senator, my job is to ensure Wisconsin’s tax climate improves. Wisconsin’s reputation as a high-tax state is not acceptable. I will continue to stand up to special interests in order to protect both taxpayers and Wisconsin’s future economic success.”

-Duey Stroebel, State Senator (R)

“Senate Republicans have led again – this time on prevailing wage. While the process has taken longer than we expected, the results were worth the wait. By working closely with stakeholders, our caucus was able to reach the strongest reform possible rather than a weaker half measure. I have been a proponent of full repeal throughout this process, but I understand that this compromise represents the best path to a full repeal in the future while achieving some immediate relief for taxpayers starting in 2017.”

-Leah Vukmir, State Senator (R)

“Once again the State Senate has proven they have what it takes to pass the common sense reforms needed to continue moving our state forward. This legislation will ensure small businesses are able to compete for local government contracts and be sure taxpayers are allowed to pay fair-market rates for construction labor.”

-Americans for Prosperity

“The small business community in Wisconsin is appreciative of the efforts in the Senate to reform the economically detrimental prevailing wage law in our state. Although full repeal is our ultimate goal, this is certainly a step in the right direction. This proposal will save tax dollars, reduce our states bureaucracy and allow local governments to further stretch their revenue. Additionally, it will make the state more competitive and open the door for small businesses to participate in local projects.”

-Bill G. Smith, NFIB Wisconsin State Director