And the wrangling begins; Governor Jim Doyle's proposed budget is now in the hands of legislators. In what's likely to be the last such vote for quite awhile,members of the Joint Committee on Finance unanimously agreed to accept Doyle's budget. State Senator Russ Decker , Joint Finance Committee co-chair, defended Doyle's budget, and one of its cornerstones — a $1.50 a barrel new tax on oil company profits. Democratic Senator Bob Jauch said the Doyle plan represents an improvement, over the previous budget which he did not vote for. "That legislature used a credit card, to pay for a considerable number of tax cuts and spending programs," said Jauch.

But Republican Representative Jeff Stone alluded to the many tax and fee increases proposed by Doyle. "If we talk about using the credit card," asked Stone, "is the goal here to reach into the pockets of the citizens of this state, and have them use their credit cards to pay the tax bill?"

With Doyle's proposal as a starting point, the 16 member committee began work Wednesday on the state budget process. Republican Representative Kitty Rhoades , co-chair of the committee, noted that Doyle's budget proposal has already yielded some surprises in terms of tax and fee increases. Those include a proposed tax on electronic greeting cards. "So, if you were going to send me a Valentine, do it today," Rhoades quipped. Another Republican on the committee, Representative Steve Kestell said he hoped that making sure the state has enough money to fund existing needs will be a top priority, before addressing new spending "I'm just expressing my hopes," said Kestell. "I don't believe in Santa Clause, but I am hopeful sometimes."

AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (:60 MP3)

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