Senate GOP budget

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, at podium, and fellow Republican senators passed a new state budget Friday.

The Senate late Friday passed a new two-year state budget after three of four Republicans who held up passage changed their minds after securing veto promises from Gov. Scott Walker.

The vote was 19-14.

Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said Friday afternoon that he and two other GOP senators who previously withheld their support for the budget, came to support it after talks with Walker about using his line-item veto authority on parts of the budget.

As a result, Walker said he plans to make repeal of the prevailing wage for state construction projects take effect immediately rather than a year from now.

Kapenga and Sens. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, and Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, said Walker also plans to veto the budget to allow school districts to conduct referendum votes only on regularly scheduled primary and general election days. The group secured a handful of other vetoes from Walker.

Separately, Walker said in a statement late Friday that he would veto a $2.5 million study looking into toll roads in Wisconsin and a provision that would have removed local oversight of rock quarries.

The budget went through the state Assembly on Wednesday.

The governor’s signature would end a delay of more than 10 weeks, the longest of its kind in a decade, on the state’s next two-year spending plan. It also would cap a flurry of activity in the state Capitol this week, in which lawmakers have tackled the budget and a $3 billion subsidy deal for electronics maker Foxconn.

The group of four hard-line conservative senators had held out on supporting the budget passed by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee. They included David Craig, of Town of Vernon, who was the only Republican to vote against the budget.

Craig said Friday he remained opposed to the budget due to its overall spending level, which would increase 4.3 percent from the previous budget.

Senate Democrats, meanwhile, derided their GOP counterparts for the last-minute hiccups.

“It demonstrates the dysfunction that is happening — the inability to govern,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, of La Crosse.

July 1 was the deadline for the GOP Legislature and Walker to enact the budget, which sets state spending levels through June 2019.

GOP holdouts posted demands

The holdout senators this week released a list of budget demands that included expanding access to private voucher schools outside Milwaukee and Racine, operational changes to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, requiring counties or municipalities that enact wheel taxes to do so by voter referendum and moving up the effective date of the budget’s repeal of the state’s prevailing wage requirement.

Another demand: barring the University of Wisconsin System from spending on “mandatory diversity, sensitivity and cultural fluency training.”

Several of those demands were not among the list of vetoes announced Friday.

Kapenga said the list was the basis for much of Friday’s talks between the three senators and the governor.

The last-second jockeying produced a final spate of drama between the Assembly and Senate, which have sparred for months on the budget. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, accused the holdout Republican senators of an eleventh-hour bid to derail an agreement among Republican leaders.

Assembly lawmakers easily passed the budget Wednesday, 57-39, and GOP leaders in that chamber said their work was done.

In past sessions, lawmakers and the governor have missed the July 1 deadline — but typically when the two parties have shared control of state government.

Progress on the budget had been delayed by Senate-Assembly disagreements, especially on transportation funding, until last week, when the Joint Finance Committee passed an amended budget.

It delays several high-profile freeway expansions in the Milwaukee area and cuts funding for resurfacing and rebuilding existing highways. The plan preserves funding for two ongoing projects in Dane County: one to expand and rebuild Verona Road near McKee Road; the other, U.S. Interstate 39-90 from the Madison area to Illinois.

It implements a new fee on hybrid and electric vehicles, which supporters call a move to tax such vehicles more comparably to vehicles powered solely by fossil fuel.

It includes a $639 million funding increase for Wisconsin K-12 school districts while boosting the household income limits for participation in the statewide private voucher school program.

The UW System gets a $31.5 million performance funding boost, with the extra money tied to certain performance benchmarks, and the system’s tuition freeze is maintained.

Taxes for high earners and businesses are cut in the budget, which begins to roll back a personal property tax that businesses pay for machinery and tools. It also eliminates, starting in 2019, the state’s alternative minimum tax, which applies to individuals making between $200,000 and $500,000 a year.

It embraces Walker’s proposals to eliminate the state forestry tax and allow another round of higher state park fees.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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