Assembly Passes Budget; Next Stop: Senate


The Assembly approved a state budget today that expands school vouchers statewide, rejects Medicaid funds, and cuts taxes for all income brackets.

The measure passed with highly unusual theatrics. Normally when the legislature takes up the state budget, members of the minority party speak for hours on end, offering amendment after amendment to point out what they see as the budget’s flaws. If nothing else, it forces vulnerable members of the majority party to take tough votes.

This time, Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, told Republicans that Democrats thought about amendments but decided against them, saying this budget was beyond repair: “Since you only seem willing to listen to the rich and powerful, the well-connected special interests, we believe there’s no hope for this budget.”

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It was the only speech Democrats would give as Republicans passed the budget on a 55-to-42 vote. Joining Democrats in voting no were representatives Steve Nass, Steve Kestell, and Howard Marklein.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said afterward that Democrats had taken themselves out of the discussion: “Well the Democrats have a goal in the minority which is usually to delay and divert. Today they chose to also disengage.”

But Barca reminded reporters that Vos had said repeatedly there would be no changes to the budget in the Assembly. Barca said Democrats were better off taking their case to the people: “Look, when you keep hitting a brick wall, at some point you’ve got to try something different.”

The budget Republicans passed was largely unchanged compared to what cleared the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. They made tweaks to provisions on high-capacity wells and a veterans tax credit. They did not pursue an additional expansion of vouchers in Racine that they were contemplating earlier this week.