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Delayed State Budget Faces Uncertainty In Senate

Four GOP Senator Oppose Spending Plan

Wisconsin State Capitol
Phil Roeder (CC-BY)

Four Republican senators are holding up final approval of Wisconsin’s delayed state budget.

Sen. Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, are all opposed to the deal passed by the Assembly on Wednesday.

Stroebel, Kapenga, and Nass outlined their requests for budget changes in a document released Wednesday to the MacIver Institute, a Wisconsin-based conservative think tank.

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“I think we can make this budget a lot better if we get some of those items,” said Stroebel. “They’re reasonable, they’re defensible, they’re concepts that have been seen before.”

The GOP-controlled Senate will not have enough votes to pass the spending plan until one of the four senators changes their mind. Republicans hold a 20-13 majority in the chamber.

Stroebel said he was in communication with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, on Thursday. He said he hopes to become a “yes” vote.

“I want to be a ‘yes,’ but right now I’m not there,” Stroebel said.

The Senate is scheduled to meet on Friday morning to take up the budget.

Stroebel’s budget requests include an expansion of income eligibility for private voucher schools in Wisconsin. The budget includes an expansion from about $45,000 a year for a family of four to $54,000. The senators’ proposal would bump that to about $73,000, which is the income threshold for Racine and Milwaukee’s voucher programs.

The senators’ proposal would also prohibit the University of Wisconsin System from spending about $4 million over the next two years on implementing a mandatory “cultural fluency” program for students, faculty, and staff.

It would also require any local government “wheel tax” increase be approved by referendum. Right now, local governments can do so without a ballot measure.

Other changes include moving the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law for state construction projects from Sept. 1, 2018 to Jan. 1, and deleting a part of the budget that limits local regulation of quarries.

The state budget was due on July 1, but has been delayed by clashes over transportation spending and taxes.

The state Assembly passed the spending plan on Wednesday.

During debate, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the Assembly will not return to approve any changes by the Senate.

“We will not be coming back next week,” Vos said.

Stroebel pushed back on Vos’ comments.

“Do I understand that — no,” Stroebel said. “I believe because of leadership in the Assembly we are as delayed as we are today.”

If the Senate does include changes to the plan and the Assembly declines to approve them, the budget would be stalled.

Gov. Scott Walker has said he expects to sign the completed spending plan by the end of summer.