After a dramatic showdown within the Republican majority in the state Senate, Wisconsin’s $76 billion budget is finally on its way to the governor’s desk more than two months late.
The plan passed late Friday night on a 19-14 vote, following assurances from the governor that several provisions would be vetoed. The move was required to get three Republican holdouts – Senators Duey Stroebel, Chris Kapenga, and Steve Nass – to vote for the bill without making additional amendments, which would have further delayed passage.
The vetoes promised by Governor Scott Walker include moving up a complete repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law from next fall to when the budget is signed, making changes to a provision that restricts when school districts can hold referenda votes, and removing language that would have expanded the authority of the controversial Public Financing Authority. Walker’s office said he would also veto a tolling implementation study authorized in the budget, along with a provision that would have preempted local regulations on quarries.
The vote followed more than eight hours of Democrats proposing 17 amendments to the plan, dealing with issues ranging from campaign finance reform to lead pipe replacement programs. All of those were rejected. Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) argued the changes were about making it a better plan for the state. “I think we can do better,” Shilling said.
Republicans remained largely silent throughout the debate, with only Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), who co-chairs the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, and Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) speaking up in defense of the plan. Darling called the budget fiscally responsible and fair to taxpayers. “I think this is one of the best budgets we have passed since I have been in the state Senate,” Darling claimed.
Friday night’s vote caps off a budget process that has seen majority Republicans in the Senate and Assembly at odds for more than two months over how to complete their work. The bill now heads to the governor, who is expected to act on it next week.