The Wisconsin Senate has passed the state budget, which is now ready for Governor Scott Walker’s signature. Minority Democrats argued the $66 billion two year budget hurts the working poor and elderly while cutting funding for education and local services. “This budget, much like the legislation we’ve dealt with in this chamber, is based on fear and paranoia,” said Waunakee Democrat Jon Erpenbach. “It’s based on disinformation. Ir’s based on falsehoods. It’s based in fact on some lies.” Democrats charged the GOP and Walker overstated the severity of the state’s fiscal crisis, rewarding corporate interests with tax breaks while cutting funding for education and local services. “Tax credits do not create jobs,” said Madison Democrat Fred Risser. “Tax credits create more money for the corporate CEOS. What creates jobs is a good educated workforce.”
Democrats are angry that the budget cuts the Earrned Income Tax Credit for low-income residents, calling that a tax increase on the working poor. Senator Glenn Grothman, a West Bend Republican, responded to that charge during the debate. “The earned income tax credit, most of it is a refundable credit,” Grothman. “It is not something that offsets tax you would pay. It is the equivalent of a welfare check. And we are leaving that credit the highest in the country.” Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar called the policies contained in the GOP budget “madness on steroids” – with Grothman as their spokesman. “I’m glad the Senator from the 20th spoke, because his words speak the truth of this budget,” said Jauch. “The Republican majority has a disdain for the working class.” Jauch said the decrease in shared revenue will mean $500 less for a family with three children. “It is indefensible. It is a tax increase.”
Rivers Hills Republican Alberta Darling, the co-chair of the budget committee, said the GOP has a different vision for Wisconsin than that of Democrats. “I just think this class warfare discussion is really not in the best interest of the Wisconsinites I know. It’s not in the best interest of middle class families, because basically middle class families are fiercely independent,” said Darling. “I think this budget reflects the vision, and is more in line with the values of middle class families then the vision you have of government providing everything, and spending and taxing.”
“I’m hopeful that with the conclusion of this vote that we can move forward as a Senate, and develop a strategy that’s bipartisan, and work together to ultimately continue to create good legislation,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau. “There has to be a two way street,” said Milwaukee Democrat Lena Taylor after the vote. “This budget is bad, these choices are bad.” Republican Senator Frank Lasee got the final word. “There’s talk tonight of working together,” said Lasee. “If you’re not going to vote for the final product, and you don’t have the spirit of living within the means of what was put forward, how do you really work together? Only to somebody on the left is a reduction in a gift from your government a tax increase.”
Democrats offered a package of amendments, all rejected on the way to passage on a 19-14 partisan vote. The Assembly passed the budget early Thursday after an all night session, and the bill is now ready for the governor’s signature. Capitol police reported a total of 16 arrests Thursday, including two people who locked themselves to the railing in the Senate chamber using heavy duty bicycle locks which had to be cut open.