FOX47 NEWS - Why is that in the state budget?

Jeff Angileri
Mar 1, 2009, 6:42 PM

Experts say the Wisconsin state budget is like art -- it is anything you can get away with.

Very few bills on their own get thru the legislature, said Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause Wisconsin. Many are introduced, few are ever passed. The state budget must be passed.

That's part of the reason you'll find -- a statewide smoking ban, raising the minimum car insurance coverage, creating a domestic partner registry, red light traffic camera laws, and seat belt enforcement -- as part of the 2009 budget.

It's hard enough to pass a budget at all, said Charles Franklin, UW political science professor. To turn it into a Christmas Tree with all kinds of extra policy ornaments just makes the thing more complicated than it needs be.

Experts warn bundling legislation with the budget is often nothing more than a distraction.

The fight becomes not about the budget and the legitimate interests involved in the budget, taxes, spending. It now also includes extraneous components, said Franklin.

Bundling legislation is not a new idea. Non fiscal items have been part of past budgets -- but less so now, because of the $5.7 billion shortfall.

The governor and the legislature aren't as free to add a lot of new programs, said Heck.

Even a tight budget, issues and all, is expected to pass. For the first time in 22 years, democrats control both houses of the state legislature and the office of governor.

Said Heck, Ultimately how the budget is decided and what stays in and what stays out is a matter of votes.

Lawmakers are supposed to pass a version by June 30th.

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