Assembly Passes Budget

assemblyThe Assembly passed the 2011-13 biennial budget early this morning, after 13 hours of debate and 40 rejected Democratic amendments. PROFS lobbied hard for changes that benefit faculty and the university.

The vote was 60-38 along straight party lines, with Independent Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc voting with the majority. The $66 billion budget slashes funding for education and local governments by more than $1 billion, but will eliminate a $3 billion structural deficit and leave the state with a $300 million surplus at the end of the biennium.

Assembly action largely preserves the budget passed earlier this month by the Joint Finance Committee. Assembly Republicans caucused much of Tuesday and Wednesday morning to craft an amendment with a handful of changes:

  • State employees, including those at UW-Madison, will be allowed to make pension contributions pre-tax, lowering employee income taxes. PROFS lobbied for this change.
  • $37 million in funding for WiscNet will be preserved, and WiscNet will see no changes over the next two years. The Legislative Audit Bureau will conduct an audit of the program, and future expansions of WiscNet would require Joint Finance Committee approval. PROFS lobbied for these changes.
  • The expansion of school choice into Green Bay was removed, while the expansion into Racine remains.
  • Transit workers were exempted from limits on collective bargaining, a move to preserve federal transit funds.
  • A proposal to require local governments to use private contractors on road projects was scaled back.
  • Schools forced to change race-based mascots, such as Warriors, will have until 2013, rather than October of this year to implement the change.
  • Pharmacists will be able to vaccinate children as young as 6 years. Currently pharmacists may  vaccinate adults only.

The Senate plans to take up the budget later today, and quick action is expected. Once passed by the Senate, the budget moves to Governor Scott Walker for possible vetoes.