UPDATE: Senate passes state budget; Walker reviews it

UPDATE: Governor Scott Walker tweeted that he was reviewing the budget the morning of July 8. 

In a move just before midnight Tuesday, the Wisconsin State Senate passed the budget with an 18-15 vote. All 14 Senate Democrats voted against the budget, and Republican Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) joined them in adding a no vote of his own.

In a statement, Cowles explained he doesn't believe non-fiscal policy items belong in the budget, \"While I understand that all budgets have some amount of policy, it is always best to keep those policy items to a minimum. Unfortunately, this budget has an excessive amount of policy in it. By my count there are nearly 140 non-fiscal items contained in this budget. All of those items, could, and should, be introduced and debated as separate legislation. For that reason, I could not in good faith vote in favor of this budget.”

Debate on the budget started at 3:15 Tuesday afternoon, and raged on for more than eight and a half hours before final passage. 

Changes to prevailing wage were added to the budget by a 17-16 vote. All Democrats opposed the move, and were joined by Republican Senators Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Richard Gudex (R-Fon du Lac).

Adding some sort of prevailing wage repeal for local governments was a sticking point for a few senators like Duey Stroebel (R-Cedarburg). In a statement released early Wednesday morning, Stroebel said, \"My first priority in the Senate was to repeal the prevailing wage. After the signing of the budget, all local governments will no longer contend with the antiquated prevailing wage law. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be saved annually – greatly increasing the efficiency of local taxpayer resources.\"

Democrats argued changes to the prevailing wage law will drive down wages for blue collar workers, and said it just adds another piece to the budget that will end up holding the state's economy back. In a statement released shortly after the budget passed Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said, “Legislative Republicans had the opportunity to reverse this and take a leadership role with Democrats to craft a budget that would focus on improving access to the middles class by investing in our shared values. Instead, Republicans rushed to rubberstamp the Walker agenda of doing more of the same – giving favors to special interests and less opportunity for working families.\"

Democrats offered 43 amendments to the budget, all were voted down through a combination of roll calls and voice votes.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a statement this budget is something for members to be proud of, \"We refused to raise sales, income or property taxes. We undertook long awaited, meaningful reforms to Wisconsin’s antiquated prevailing wage law which artificially inflated the cost of taxpayer-funded projects to the tune of hundreds of millions annually.\"

Controversial changes to state open records laws were removed from the budget. All 33 senators voted to remove the idea, that included the six Republican senators who voted in favor of the large motion containing the plan last week. Earlier in the day, Fitzgerald revealed he worked on the original plan with Governor Scott Walker's staff and Assembly members.

The budget now heads to the State Assembly, and debate is expected to begin at 11:30 Wednesday morning. Republican and Democrat Assembly leadership has an agreement to have a final vote on the budget by 11 Wednesday evening.

The Senate and Assembly still need to take up the plan to fund a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, that plan was officially removed from the budget late last week.

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