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With Budget Proposal Coming, Democratic Lawmakers Seek Common Ground With Republicans

Governor To Unveil Plan On Tuesday Night

Wisconsin state capitol building
The Wisconsin state capitol building.  Photo: Rough Tough, Real Stuff (CC-BY-NC-ND)

As Gov. Scott Walker unveils his budget on Tuesday night, some Democratic lawmakers are hoping they can find common ground with Republicans.

With Republicans controlling the state Legislature, however, Democrats could have an uphill battle getting key issues included in the budget.

State Rep. Steve Doyle, D-Onalaska, said there is room for compromise. With some Republicans concerned about the governor’s proposed $300 million cut to the University of Wisconsin System and about transportation funding, Doyle said both sides could be forced to work together on some budget issues.

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“Maybe this is a chance with both parties saying, ‘You know, the governor’s approach isn’t going to work.’ Well, let’s come up with something together to try and fix that situation and over the next few months is the perfect opportunity to do so,” said Doyle.

Other Democrats said that common ground between the parties could be found in funding for rural schools, mental health services and changes to the criminal justice.

Some Democrats said that they’re hoping to convince Republican legislators to block several of Walker’s budget proposals, including giving the UW System more power to raise tuition in two years.

The governor is proposing to cut $300 million from the system’s budget, but in return eventually give the university system more autonomy over things like setting student tuition. The tuition independence idea concerns both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including Milwaukee Democratic state Rep. Fred Kessler.

“It seems to me that we are creating a privatization of our public education system,” he said.

Kessler said he also worries the UW would start admitting more out-of-state students who pay higher tuition and let in fewer Wisconsin residents.

Walker said competition between universities would force the UW to limit any tuition increases.