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State legislature begins budget debate tomorrow

MADISON (WSAU- Wheeler News)  The full Wisconsin Legislature will start acting on the new state budget tomorrow. In a different tactic from recent years, the G-O-P majority wants to make as few changes as possible. They did most of their negotiating with the Joint Finance Committee over the past month. Minority Democrats hope to hook up with moderate Republicans to get at least a few of their wishes granted.

Senate Republican Dale Schultz of Richland Center says he’d like to see the $648-million income tax cut reduced – the statewide expansion of private school vouchers scaled back – and cuts restored for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Both Schultz and Green Bay Republican Rob Cowles say the budget leaves too much of a deficit for the following budget in 2015 – $505-million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Cowles says he wants to remove non-fiscal policy items, but he’s not saying which ones. Senate G-O-P leader Scott Fitzgerald could cut off Schultz’s and Cowles’ efforts if he wanted to, by calling for a conference committee when the Assembly passes the budget. Republican leaders of both houses would presumably craft a budget to their liking – and the Senate could not amend it later, thus preventing more moderate ideas from being included. However, Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tell the A-P they won’t seek a conference committee. Both still expect only minor technical changes to the budget in their houses.

Governor Scott Walker has not said what he might veto, but he has expressed support for virtually all the major budget items. His biggest public objection is to a proposed reduction in property tax breaks for veterans.