- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015
11 Assembly Republicans vote against budget

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Eleven Assembly Republicans joined with 35 Democrats in voting against the Wisconsin state budget.

They are: Kathleen Bernier, Ed Brooks, James Edming, David Heaton, Scot Krug, Lee Nerison, Todd Novak, Warren Petryk, Keith Ripp, Travis Tranel and Nancy Vander Meer.

All Democrats voted against the $73 billion two-year spending plan. Rep. Chris Danou was absent for the early Thursday morning vote.

The Senate passed the budget 18-15 on Tuesday with Republican Sen. Rob Cowles joining Democrats in opposition.

Republicans have publicly groused about the budget as introduced by Gov. Scott Walker that cut the University of Wisconsin System by $300 million and had other divisive proposals.

But during Assembly debate Republicans said they improved the spending plan, which now heads to Walker for his signature and vetoes.


Wisconsin Assembly passes budget, sends it to Walker

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly passed the state budget with only two votes to spare early Thursday morning, sending the $73 billion spending plan on to Gov. Scott Walker four days before he was to officially launch his presidential campaign.

Walker has not said when he will sign it, but fast action before the Monday presidential announcement was expected. Walker was to spend all of next week traveling to four early presidential primary voting states, and he’s repeatedly said he didn’t want to begin his campaign until after the budget was signed.

The budget passed on a 52-46 vote, with 11 Republicans joining all 35 Democrats in opposition. One Democrat was absent. The Senate passed it 18-15 on Tuesday, with one Republican breaking ranks.

Assembly debate leading up to the vote was anti-climactic - other than a two-hour delay caused by a bomb threat leading to evacuation of the Capitol. During debate that began shortly after noon Wednesday and ended at 12:40 a.m. Thursday, Assembly Republicans rejected all Democratic amendments, which would have done such things as increased funding for K-12 schools and the University of Wisconsin and undone numerous other portions of the GOP plan.

The budget as passed holds property taxes in check, does not raise income or sales taxes, cuts University of Wisconsin funding by $250 million while freezing tuition for two years, and largely holds funding for public K-12 schools flat next year while also expanding the private school voucher program.

It also will require public aid recipients to undergo a screening for drugs, eliminates the prevailing wage paid to construction workers on public projects at the local level and lowers borrowing for transportation work by $450 million that will lead to delays in some projects.

Assembly Democrats ripped the plan calling it “awful,” a “mess” and a “dumpster fire.” Even some Republicans badmouthed the budget as first delivered by Walker. Rep. Tom Weatherston, R-Caledonia, said Walker’s proposal at first was a “piece of crap,” but the Legislature made it better.


Highlights of Wisconsin budget under debate in Assembly

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Republican-controlled state Assembly was expected to pass the two-year state budget Wednesday, which would send the $73 billion two-year spending plan to Gov. Scott Walker. The governor can use his powerful veto authority to edit or remove items before he signs it into law.

Here are some ways the budget could affect Wisconsin residents:


- Public school funding: It won’t be cut by $127 million as Walker proposed, but there won’t be much more money. Funding would be flat the first year of the budget and go up by about $69 million in the second year, but schools aren’t being given the authority to increase spending. That means if a district does get more aid, it will have to divert it to lowering property taxes unless voters approve a special referendum.

- Vouchers: More students who meet income qualifications would be able to attend private voucher schools because the current 1,000-student statewide enrollment cap changes to no more than 1 percent of a district’s total students. That would increase 1 percentage point a year for 10 years until there is no cap. Money to pay for voucher students would come out of public school aid. Also, students with disabilities who are denied open enrollment in another public school district would be able to use a voucher for private schools.

- Ratings: A new five-star system would have no sanctions for poor performers. Federal law currently requires schools to take the same standardized test, but Wisconsin would seek a waiver to allow for schools to choose between three and five standardized tests to measure performance.

- Civics test: Starting in the 2016 school year, high school students would have to correctly answer at least 60 of the 100 questions on a civics exam before graduation. They could retake the test until they pass.


Supreme Court to hear education rules lawsuit

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The state Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit challenging the governor’s power to block new education rules.

The case centers on a law Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed in 2011 that requires state agencies to get gubernatorial approval before drafting administrative rules. The presidents of two teachers unions and a number of parents filed a lawsuit alleging the law can’t apply to the Department of Public Instruction. They contend the law gives other state officers more power than the elected DPI superintendent.

A Madison judge ruled for the plaintiffs in 2012. A state appeals court upheld that ruling this past February.

The high court announced Wednesday it would hear the case. A four-justice conservative majority controls the court.

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