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Democrats wonder what's next for Wisconsin budget, Republicans strip many Evers proposals

State Sen. LaTonya Johnson
Joint Finance Committee member State Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) speaks to the committee Tuesday.

A lot of people are wondering what's next for the two-year state budget after some controversial votes Tuesday. Republicans who control the legislature's Joint Finance Committee began their formal review of the proposed budget by stripping more than 500 of Gov. Tony Evers' spending ideas from the document. Yet, the GOP promises to develop a budget the Democratic executive will sign this summer.

Democrats on the committee tried to discourage Republicans from removing the Evers' proposals. Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) said the GOP's motion ignored what the committee heard during a series of recent public hearings.

Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville)
Committee member Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) speaks during the committee meeting.

"We heard about special education, K-12 education funding, mental health funding. We heard about IRIS and Family Care, shared revenue, low Medicaid reimbursement rates. This bill, to strip the Governor's budget back to base, without a shadow of a doubt, removes the very things our constituents asked for," Johnson told committee members.

IRIS is a state program for older people and adults with disabilities. Base budgeting means beginning discussions based on the state spending plan for this fiscal year instead of Evers' proposal.

Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee)
Committee member Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) comments Tuesday.

Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) said removing funds Evers proposed for affordable housing will harm efforts to help Wisconsin grow faster.

"There are nine different policies in the Democratic motion now around housing. We gotta build more housing! You want to grow? We've gotta have a place for people to live, and it's got to be affordable. And that means single family, that means multi-family. It means in my neighborhood on the north side of Milwaukee and other communities too," Goyke told the committee.

He argued a massive stripping of many topics from the budget now lets Republicans avoid saying how they would vote on individual items.

"If you don't think housing investment is a good policy, vote against it. But don't hide behind a policy that lumps in over 500 items in one, then prevents the minority party from ever debating again. Stand up and be counted," Goyke urged the Republicans.

There are only four Democrats on the 16-person Joint Finance Committee. One of the Republican co-chairs of the panel, Mark Born of Beaver Dam, took issue with Goyke's remarks and promised a vote on Democrat's attempts to block the budget stripping.

Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam)
Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam) speaks during a news conference before the committee met Tuesday.

"We are going to reject both this amendment and the massive expansion of government and reckless spending in this Governor's budget by removing a number of items very shortly. Where I know the majority members of this committee will stand up and be counted, and record that vote," Born said.

GOP members then voted to knock the 545 items from the budget bill on a 12-4 party line vote.

What now?

Perhaps as many as eight weeks of adding Republican plans into the budget, including possibly a controversial shared revenue proposal affecting the Milwaukee area. Goyke said he's skeptical.

"So what's your plan?! You agree that we need to grow. You disagree that these are the ways, and then it's 'trust us, we will slowly dribble out piece of the budget week after week,'" Goyke said.

Born said his party will take its time, but promises to address topics like K-12 funding in the Department of Public Instruction's (DPI) budget.

"I think a number of us look forward to the opportunity sometime in the next several weeks to having DPI on the agenda, to make what'll probably be historic investments," Born said.

Republicans say they will send a finished product to Evers that he will sign, as he did with the budget the GOP sent him two years ago.

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