WISCONSINREPORT.COM (06/18/2009) - The Wisconsin State Senate has passed a biennial budget bill for 2009-2011. As usual, there are misgivings by Republicans that majority party Senate Democrats were able to get the budget passed. However, Majority Leader Russ Decker says the version passed has no general sales or payroll tax increases, yet, it still protects working families, schools, and police and fire services from cuts. Another provision invests in highways, airports, bridges and harbors, and is expected to create about 10,000 jobs.
The Senate version of the 2009-11 state budget, narrowly passed the Senate, with no Senate Republican support. Democrat Jim Sullivan voted no with Republican members in the 17-16 vote. A conference committee will be responsible for coming up with a compromise between the Senate version and the Assembly version of the state spending plan.
“This was a very difficult decision for me," said Senator Jim Sullivan (D-Wauwatosa). "There are many provisions included in the budget that I strongly support, including capital funding for an Engineering School in Southeastern Wisconsin, tax incentives for businesses that create new jobs in Wisconsin, and progress on fixing the school choice funding flaw," Sullivan said.
“However, there are also a number of provisions included in the budget that I cannot support, including the hybrid RTA proposal for Southeastern Wisconsin included in the Senate budget and the severely inadequate funding for the Zoo Interchange reconstruction," Senator Sullivan continued.
“The state is facing extremely difficult economic times. I understand the need to pass a budget, but I do not believe this budget is in the best interest of the 5th Senate District,” Sullivan concluded.
Majority Democrat Senator Russ Decker issued the following statement after the State Senate passed its version of the state budget.
“We face tough economic times for this state budget. But this budget still protects working families, schools, and police and fire services from draconian cuts.”
“This budget has no general sales or payroll tax increase, protects the vast majority of Wisconsin residents from an income tax increase and we held the line on property taxes by making investments in local transportation aids, police and fire services and recycling grants.”
“And we managed to make critical investments.” “We increased aid to the school districts with the highest poverty in the state and we invested in our technical colleges to ensure that they have the resources they need to train workers for new jobs.”
“We invest $250 million in our highways, bridges, airports and harbors and that will create more than 10,000 jobs.”
“But we also had to make deep cuts. Every state agency and the Legislature will be forced to squeeze every nickel out of every dollar.”
“This is a bold and innovative budget that moves our state forward,” said Decker.
Following the Senate passage of the 2009-2011 state budget, Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) issued the following statement:
"At a time when our state is in recession, the Legislature’s number one priority should be creating jobs and decreasing the tax burden on Wisconsin working families. Instead, the budget bill passed by Senate Democrats today does exactly the opposite. It increases spending by over 6% and raises millions of dollars in taxes and fees. The Senate Democrats’ budget goes even farther than the Joint Finance Committee’s version and increases spending by an additional $300 million," Senator Fitzgerald said.
"The Democrats’ amended budget includes over $48 million in pork projects. They added 21 policy items and 24 pieces of pork to their budget to buy the votes of their members. It is irresponsible for government to increase spending and taxes at a time when families with smaller budgets have cut their spending during these difficult economic times."
"This budget punishes employers and working families and will prolong our state’s economic recovery. Provisions like the capital gains changes will increase taxes by $315 million, putting Wisconsin in the company of only a few states in the country without capital gains exclusions. This change will worsen our already poor business climate rating and punish anyone selling their assets or thinking about retiring," Senator Fitzgerald continued.
"Democrats came to their senses and joined Republicans by eliminating the joint and several liability policy and oil franchise fee. Republicans have been saying for months how detrimental these changes would be to Wisconsin."
"Despite that, it is just the beginning of the changes that needed to be made to this budget bill," Fitzgerald said.
"Republicans offered 117 changes in the Joint Finance Committee, over 130 amendments in the Assembly, and over 30 amendments in the Senate to improve the budget."
"Democrats concocted their budget entirely in secret behind closed doors," the Senate Republican Minority Party claimed. "Senate Republicans were briefed on it mere hours before having to vote on it. In fact, we weren’t handed a copy of the actual budget bill until the Democrats were calling for a vote on it," Fitzgerald said.
"The Senate Democrats’ budget creates an irresponsible mess that increases spending, raises taxes, and kills jobs to the detriment of working families and small businesses," Senator Fitzgerald said.
State Senator Alan Lasee (R-De Pere) released the following statement regarding the 2009-11 biennial budget bill:
“With a $6.6 billion deficit, you’d think that Senate Democrats would cut spending, decrease taxes, lower fees, and choose not to max out the credit card. Instead, they did just the opposite."
"While residents all across this state are starting to realize the devastating impact that this budget will have on everyone, Democrats disagree. They have no problem with raising your auto insurance, increasing your property taxes, charging you a fee for owning a phone, penalizing you if you reside in a nursing home, taxing you for getting sick, and the list is ongoing., Senator Lasee said.
Senator Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) also offered his comments following the Senate passage of the budget bill, which he pointed out had no Republican support in the vote.
“With an economy still on shaky ground, a record budget deficit, unemployment on the rise, and people and businesses considering moving out of state, the Senate Democrat Majority chose to worsen those problems by passing what is undoubtedly the worst budget in state history” said Senator Kedzie.
Kedzie says the $62 billion "boondoggle of a budget", with its $3.7 billion in tax and fee increases and detrimental non-fiscal policy changes, could not come at a worse time. While Democrats paint it as protecting the middle-class, Kedzie says it will harm Wisconsin residents regardless of their income level or lot in life.
“If you own a home, a car, a boat, a phone, or a business, you will pay more money to the government – that is not political spin, that is a fact,” Kedzie said. “All of this talk by the Democrats of protecting the middle-class is laughable, as both the tax increases and the many policy changes will harm the middle-class the most.”
The budget is projected to increase property taxes on a $165,000 home by $225 over the next two years, add a .75 cent monthly charge to all land line and cell phones, and completely do away with the capital gains tax exemption, which will harm fixed-income earners, small business owners, and investors, according to Senator Kedzie.
Kedzie estimates that the elimination of the capital gains exclusion alone will be a $485 million tax increase on Wisconsin citizens over the next two years.
“The bottom line is income earners at all levels will be forced to shell out more money at a time when they’re struggling to keep what they have,” Kedzie said.