Lawmakers in the Assembly approved a two-year $66 billion state budget plan on a 60-to-38 party line vote. The final vote came at around three this morning, following a debate on the floor that stretched for nearly 13 hours.
Republicans defended the plan for making the hard choices necessary to balance the state budget and to get Wisconsin back on the path towards creating jobs and growing the economy. Democrats repeatedly argued that it sets Wisconsin on the wrong path, and puts the heaviest burden on the middle class and working poor.
Neenah Republican Dean Kaufert admitted he has concerns about the plan, but feels it takes the steps needed to wipe out the state’s $3 billion structural deficit in just one budget. Kaufert says such a result “blows his mind.”
Democrats offered nearly 40 amendments aimed at restoring cuts to areas such as education, health care, and public assistance programs. All of them were tabled by Republicans, blocking them. The Minority party says the bill chooses tax cuts for corporations and expensive road projects over providing adequate funding for education and helping the neediest residents of the state.
Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says the bill is a mistake that will permanently hurt families and goes against Wisconsin’s values and traditions.
A single omnibus amendment from Republicans was adopted in the early morning hours of Thursday. The measure included several changes, such as exempting transit workers from the Governor’s collective bargaining law, maintaining a rural broadband program, and removing a school voucher provision for Green Bay.
State Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend) says the bill does exactly what the GOP promised voters last fall by making tough but necessary cuts.
The budget now heads to the state Senate, which is expected to take it up later today.