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Legislature's Budget Leaders: This is Not Gov. Walker's Budget Anymore

robbyb, flickr

The Legislature’s budget committee, on Wednesday, began digging into Gov. Walker’s proposed budget for Wisconsin. Before the meeting, Republican leaders removed 14 policy items the governor had tucked into his plan. 14 of 49.

Among those removed was Walker’s proposal to make the Natural Resources Board an advisory one.

At the start of the meeting, Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee took jabs at the governor, including for errors. Late Tuesday, the eve of the opening budget meeting, committee members received what’s called an errata from the Walker administration. The document spells out corrections to the governor’s budget. Rep. Chris Taylor specifically wondered how the administration could have overlooked funding workers compensation for six months, an oversight of about $15.5 million.

“I don’t know what happened in the drafting of this budget, I don’t know if Gov. Walker is too busy in Europe or campaigning, but it’s very apparent to me, in my quick look at this, because that’s all the time I had, that there are errors. This is a budget of errors, frankly,” Chris Taylor said.

Taylor describe the errata as 110 pages long, involving as much as $30 million and being the second such document the administration has issued.

Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach told Republicans who control the committee that he doesn’t envy them. He said taking the lead on a budget containing errors and controversial cuts is not easy.

“What we heard throughout the state, whether it be the UW (System) cuts, K-12 cuts, IRIS, and I’m half-jokingly saying, based on some cuts in the DNR - the actual denial of science on some of these issues we’re dealing with, you have your hands full,” Erpenbach said.

Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor added that she didn't envy the GOP leaders "because you’re going through the same thing that county board in Milwaukee went through. When the governor would do a budget and know that he was not doing what was best for the constituents and left it on the legislators there to do be able the hard work, to make sure that people were served.”

Lena Taylor urged the committee to remove all 35 remaining policy items from the governor’s budget; Republicans refused. Co-chair and Rep. John Nygren said the committee would operate in a manner consistent with prior budget sessions.

“Just remember, this is really the governor’s one kick at the cat, as far as introducing initiative of his own. But just going back a little bit in history, the 35 policy items remaining in the budget, interestingly enough might have been the exact same number remaining in the budget, when Democrats were in control of all three houses,” Nygren said.

Republican leaders also defended the 10-minute rule they’re imposing during budget deliberations. Committee members can speak for 10 minutes max on any one issue, unless all committee members agree to allow a longer discussion. Co-chair, Sen. Alberta Darling said the limit is reasonable and will help the committee finish its work by Memorial Day.

“We are expected to do our homework, before we come to the table. So actually 10 minutes, if you started talking for 10 minutes, you’d realize how many points you really can make,” Darling said.

The budget committee wrapped up its agenda for Wednesday before 3 P.M. Decisions included two unanimous votes. One supports the governor’s plan to scale back the office of Secretary of State. The other vote overturns Walker’s desire to give the state Supreme Court control over the commission that investigates judges. Darling said there may be bipartisan agreement on other items, as well.

“We heard from the public hearings too, and we will be hoping to work with you on changes to K-12, to UW (System) to FamilyCare to transportation. So let’s roll up our sleeves and see what we can do, because this will not be the governor’s budget anymore,” Darling said.

Among the budget items the committee will tackle yet this week: the state’s technical colleges.

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