Wednesday, September 13, 2017

State Assembly Passes Budget

The State Assembly voted 57-39 to pass the 2017-19 state budget late Wednesday evening. Every Democratic member of the Assembly voted against passage as did five Republicans--Representatives Allen, Brandtjen, Jarchow, Gannon, Sanfelippo. 

Democrats criticized the budget as being "rigged" in favor of the rich and ignoring the needs of working families. They also lambasted Republicans for failing to come up with a long-term transportation funding plan after months
of debate and for expanding the school choice program. 

Republicans brushed off criticism from Democrats and referred to many of their floor speeches and amendments as attempts to audition for the Assembly Minority Leader position being vacated by Representative Peter
Barca (D-Kenosha). They also highlighted the budget's significant investment in K-12 education funding, UW tuition freeze, reduced transportation bonding and lower property taxes. 

Prior to passing the budget, Assembly Republicans offered a six-page technical amendment < was adopted on a voice vote. 

The budget must now be approved by the State Senate, which is scheduled to vote on the proposal on Friday morning. However, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says he does not currently have the 17 votes needed to pass the bill in his house. It appears that the Senate hold-outs are concerned about the lack of reforms at the Department of Transportation and want to see the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program increased to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level and additional school
referendum reforms. Several lawmakers have also asked that the repeal of the prevailing wage law be moved up to January.

If the Senate adopts any amendments to the budget, it will need to go back
to the Assembly for approval. During his closing remarks, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said that the Assembly had no plans to vote on the budget again and that their vote Wednesday night was final. Governor Walker has previously said he hopes to sign the budget into law by September 21.

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