FOX47 NEWS - Wisconsin Senate Debates State Budget

Jeff Angileri
Jun 17, 2009, 9:36 PM

The Wisconsin Senate started debating the $62 billion state budget proposal around 4:30 p.m.

Senators didn't have a lot of flexibility with the budget this time around. With a $6.6 billion hole to fill, they called it one of the toughest ever to vote on because of cutbacks.

People expect good roads, safe streets, they expect garbage to be picked up, they expect good schools, a good UW system, a good technical college system -- and we're cutting from that, said Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).

The spending slashes the budgets of state agencies by six percent, lays off 1,400 state employees, takes away a two percent pay raise from state workers, and requires them to take 16 unpaid days off over the next two years.

The senate's budget differs from the assembly in that it calls for mandatory car insurance for Wisconsin drivers, and eliminating a tax on oil companies that could have increased gas prices.

Democrats want to fill the gap by getting rid of tax breaks for investors on capital gains, and adding $2 billion in taxes and fees.

That's moving out of the wallets and purses of the working-class people of Wisconsin and coming over to government, said Sen. Michael Ellis, (R-Neenah).

Republicans offered 32 changes. One by one, senators voted to table or kill the amendments.

Republicans are completely excluded from the process, said Jay Heck, of Common Cause in Wisconsin. They've had no hand at all in putting together this budget. Much of the budget has been put together behind closed doors without consultation of the other party. In just the same way Republicans did when they had control of the assembly and state senate.

Before the budget goes to the governor's office, both sides have to come up with a compromise on the changes. That special committee could meet as early as Thursday.

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