More than likely, by the end of this week, the Assembly Republicans will have managed to pass two very large portions of the 2007-2009 state budget.
Like most states, we spend more on education than on any other areas in our state budgets. By the end of this week the Assembly Republicans will pass a portion of the state budget that fully funds our schools K-12.
This is wonderful news. Over the last several weeks, the Democrats have been telling us of the looming crisis about to hit this state if funding for the school districts is not worked out in the budget. The same is true for aid to local governments. As the local governments are working on their own budgets, they need to know how much state aid they will receive in the budget. This should help keep the property taxes down.
It appears that the legislation will be done in plenty of time for the school districts and local governments to set their finances for the year.
However, there is still one major problem.
Neither the Democrats in the State Senate, nor Democrat Governor Jim Doyle will sign off on this portion of the budget. They have made it very clear, either they get the entire budget negotiated or nothing will pass.
Now, you might ask yourself, with this crisis looming, why would the Democrats reasonably hold these two portions of the budget and refuse to pass it?
Could the reason be that the Democrats believe that the schools and local governments are not getting the financing the Democrats believe they deserve?
No, that is not it. In fact, the Republicans compromised and gave the schools exactly what the Senate Democrats were asking. The Assembly Republicans even went so far as to restore some controversial tax sharing revenues to some of the Democratic strongholds.
However, the Republicans did cap the local levies at 2% or a percentage of growth- whichever is higher. The Governor and the Senate Democrats want to increase this cap to 4%.
Overall, it is a fair proposal and a fair compromise from Assembly Republicans.
So, why are the Governor and the Senate Democrats digging in their heals and promising not to pass these important parts of the budget?
Originally, there was even some talk of a piece meal budget being foreign territory. It had never been done before and folks were not sure how to proceed forward.
In reality, a piece meal budget has happened twice in recent history. In 1995, the transportation budget was broken out from the rest of the budget and passed separately. In 1999, K-12 funding was also passed separately.
It has been done and it can be done.
The Governor and the Senate Democrats are currently holding schools and local government hostage by their refusal to compromise and pass these portions of the budget.
We have seen signs that the Assembly Democrats are willing to move forward with Rep. Kreuser working on delivering some democrat votes in support of funding for these two portions of the budget.
This is great news; unfortunately, it is in the Senate, not the Assembly, where we need to see movement on this budget.
So far, we have seen no movement from Democratic Senate leaders, Robson and Decker, in their willingness to compromise and pass funding for schools and local governments.
Also, the governor is refusing to budge from his promised veto.
These Democrats are staunchly holding onto their tax increases. The 18 Senators that passed the $18 billion in tax increases are refusing to give up Healthy Wisconsin or any of these tax increases.
So far, the only reason Democrats have given for keeping themselves out of this budget process is that they feel the budget should be passed all together.
It is not necessary to pass the entire budget at once. A piece meal budget has been done before and should be done again.
There is a way forward on this budget impasse.
The Assembly Republican’s plan to pass school funding and local government funding, will solve the immediate problem we have.
If left to their own devices, local governments could impose huge property tax increases and school districts could impose massive increases in the school tax levies. This is detrimental to the taxpayers of Wisconsin.
The Democrats need to stop holding the people of Wisconsin hostage and go ahead and provide the funds to our schools and local governments.
It is unfair to the taxpayers of Wisconsin to be subjected to massive school tax levy increases and property tax increases, because the Democrats refuse to move forward.
Wisconsin’s state motto is “Forward”.
Democrats, what are you waiting for? It is time to move forward and get this budget done, even if you pass one piece at a time.