Nearly nine months after Governor Doyle first delivered his budget to lawmakers, the legislature on Tuesday night finally sent an agreement to his desk. The deal was the result of a budget compromise announced last week.
Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem) says the budget compromise isn't perfect, but Republicans were able to eliminate many of the tax increases originally proposed by the Governor and Senate Democrats.
However, several Republicans remained opposed to the compromise. State Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) says the budget deal still leaves Wisconsin taxpayers with something they can't afford.
Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Judy Robson (D-Beloit) thanked Assembly Republicans for coming together to work on the agreement. She says the discussion was lively and both sides had priorities, but the end result is a fair compromise.
Senate Republicans presented a united front against the budget in that chamber. State Senator Joe Leibham (R-Sheboygan) says the deal will "nickel and dime" the people of Wisconsin with tax hikes and fee increases.
Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) also blamed the long stalemate on the Governor not getting involved early on. He noted that once Doyle began pushing for an agreement, the budget conference committee finally started making progress.
The budget passed the Assembly on a 60-39 vote, with 23 Republicans and 37 Democrats supporting it. Ten Democrats voted against the deal. In the Senate, the budget was approved 18-15, with a vote that fell along party lines.
Several lawmakers who opposed the deal cited concerns about a $1 a pack increase in the cigarette tax and $200 million transfer from the Patient's Compensation Fund to help balance the budget. Many argued the transfer violated state law and a court challenge could put the entire budget on shaky financial ground.
The Governor is expected to act on the budget, along with any vetoes, by the end of the week. In a statement, Governor Doyle said lawmakers did "the right thing for our schools; for the safety of our neighborhoods; for the health of our kids and the health of our economy."