Assembly leaders get ready for the budget battle. The Assembly will take the floor sometime today to begin debate on the state budget. Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca says the GOP authored document features tax increases, fund raids and increased bonding. “The part that I personally find the most egregious is the lack of shared sacrifice,” said the Kenosha Democrat. “We are rewarding special interests at the same time we’re hurting middle class families.” There’s too much pain and sacrifice, said La Crosse Democrat Jennifer Shilling, who serves on the Joint Finance Committee. “I know where that pain and that sacrifice is being asked. It’s being asked of those who are most vulnerable in our state. It’s being asked of education, of disabled, of seniors, of working families, of the working poor. I’ve yet to see the shared part.”
But GOP Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald says it’s a budget that restores fiscal sanity after years of running structural deficits. “This is the time in the state’s history that I think many of us have done at home. We’ve been maxing out the credit card, we’ve spending more than we have coming in. This is the time to cut up the credit cards. That’s what we’re doing.” The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said Monday that the budget eliminates a more than $3 billion structural deficit and leaves the state with a surplus of more than $300 million for the two year budget cycle. Representative Robin Vos, the GOP co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee, said the budget has no new tax increases and includes historically low property tax increases.
Will changes to collective bargaining – currently awaiting a state Supreme Court decision – end up in the state budget? “We’ll see,” said Fitzgerald. “But I would plan on passing it in the budget if the court does not act in time.” The court heard arguments last week on a Dane County Judge’s ruling to block implementation of the controversial measure. Fitzgerald said his caucus won’t waver if it comes to a vote. “There might be protesters here for the rest of the week, but I am telling you, my caucus is more solid on that collective bargaining vote then they ever were, because they’ve been back to their districts. They’re starting parades right now. They’re having people stand up and cheer.”