In dozens of vetoes Sunday, Gov. Scott Walker took
down several ornaments hung on the more than $68 billion state budget but left
untrimmed the major branches bearing an income tax cut, expanded support for
private schools, and tight financial controls on local governments and public
In signing the bill into law, the Republican governor used his substantial partial veto power to strip millions of dollars for demolishing foreclosed homes in Milwaukee, block bounty hunters from entering the state and allow investigative journalists to remain on a University of Wisconsin campus. He also crossed out a catch-and-release bass season and a last-minute change by lawmakers that could have thwarted a 1,000-student cap on a statewide expansion of taxpayer-funded private schools.
After taking every moment he could to consider his vetoes, Walker signed the 2013-'15 budget bill just prior to it taking effect on Monday, holding the ceremony at Catalyst Exhibits, a trade show business that moved from Illinois two years ago to its present location outside Kenosha. Walker received a standing ovation as he signed the bill after a 20-minute speech, flanked by several GOP lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Rep. John Nygren of Marinette and Sen. Alberta Darling of River Hills.
"The real story is about the fact this is a budget built up to support and defend the hard-working people of Wisconsin," Walker said. "We continue to turn things around. With your help, by God, we're going to continue to move Wisconsin forward."
With his vetoes, Walker cut several provisions that his fellow Republicans in the Legislature added to the budget proposal that the governor first put forward in February. In all, Walker made 57 vetoes of words or phrases in the budget, a relatively modest number that is similar to the 50 partial vetoes that he made in 2011 and fewer than those seen in some previous budgets. That reflects the relatively close cooperation on the bill between Walker and the GOP lawmakers who control the Legislature.
Earlier in June, the budget passed the Assembly 55-42 and the Senate on the narrow margin of 17-16, completing a four-month legislative process that went far more smoothly than the bitter controversy that surrounded the last state budget in 2011. That reflected in no small part an improved economy that shifted the agenda at the Capitol from one of potential deficits and deep cuts to schools to one of tax cuts and modest increases in education dollars.
The budget includes a $651 million income tax decrease, freezes university tuition for two years, limits property tax increases on the typical home to about 1% in each of the next two years and rejects federal aid to expand the state's BadgerCare Plus health plan to more people.
All Democrats in the Legislature voted against the budget, and the vetoes did little to change their opinion of the bill. They said Sunday it didn't provide enough money for public schools, gave too much in tax cuts to the wealthy and wasted a chance to provide health care to more people with federal aid and still boost the state's bottom line by $119 million over the next two years.
Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), a budget committee member, said he was pleased that the bail bondsman provision was dropped.
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