Wisconsin Senate passes state budget

Dems used procedural move to delay vote
Wisconsin Senate passes state budget

The Wisconsin Legislature has passed the state budget.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the $70 billion budget shortly after midnight on Friday. The Assembly passed it Wednesday.

The two-year spending plan now heads to Gov. Scott Walker.

The Senate vote came after 12 hours of debate on Thursday and a 90-minute delay caused by Democrats who used a procedural move to block a final vote until Friday.

The budget passed the Senate on a 17-16 vote. Sen. Dale Schultz was the only Republican to vote against the plan.

Schultz objected to many parts of the budget, including the expansion of private school vouchers statewide and policy items like banning the Center for Investigative Journalism from operating on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Senate Democrats started the morning hopeful enough that Republicans would join them in some of the nearly 40 amendments they planned to offer to the state budget.

“We plan to today introduce common-sense middle-class amendments,” said Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, the Senate majority leader.

Just before one of those Republicans stood to address the floor, protesters in the gallery and storming the chamber stole the show.

In what appeared to be a coordinated demonstration Thursday, protesters in the Senate gallery began shouting, “Focus on jobs, not vaginas!” Others stormed through the outer doors and tried to gain access to the Senate floor. Authorities stopped them before they reached any lawmaker.

Debate was disrupted for several minutes as police detained the protesters. They continued shouting as police took them away. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration, which oversees the state Capitol Police Department, said in an email that officers removed eight people.

Police plan to cite them for disorderly conduct.

Eventually Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, told the body he would support some of the Democratic amendments.

“Without these amendments, I cannot support the bill which is before us today, because it’s too far removed from representing the interests of the common men and women I represent,” said Schultz.

But Schultz would be the only “no” vote as Republicans got behind a budget they said would help the economy.

“Look at what you have done to the hardworking taxpayers of this state, and we aren’t going to apologize for giving the people back their money,” said Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah.

“The question we asked today is: Are we better off today than we were two years ago, and will we be better off with the bill as it will be passed, which is launching us in the right direction?” said Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Falls.

“The most important thing is to prop up the people in this state and let people keep more of their money for the expenditures that they have within their household and for businesses to create more jobs and grow those businesses rather than give it to us to as I say, ‘play Santa Claus,'” said Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin.

Democrats fundamentally disagreed.

“To be quite honest and very blunt, maybe in her house she is (better off), but in the rest of Wisconsin, we are clearly not better off than we were two years ago, not even close,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton.

“What we did last session is obviously not working when every state around us is flourishing,” said Larson. “We must change course today and set sail for a new direction for Wisconsin’s working, middle-class families.”

Debate began Thursday morning just after 10 and was expected to go around 12 hours.

Democrats said they did not plan to pull a procedural move that would delay a vote.