For months, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has said he won’t launch his long-expected run for the Republican nomination for President until he gets his own house in order and signs Wisconsin’s budget into law. Despite weeks of delays, he still may make that deadline before his planned announcement on July 13th.
After several back-to-back, late night, contentious debates — including an interruption by a bomb threat — the Wisconsin legislature sent a nearly $73 billion two-year budget to Walker’s desk.
Though Wisconsinites successfully pressured lawmakers to take out provisions that would have levied a special tax on bicycles, gutted the state’s government transparency laws and reduce a planned $300 million cut to universities to $250 million, a host of controversial provisions — several of them slipped in at the last minute — made it into the final draft.
The 11th-hour additions include a repeal of wage protections for construction workers on local government projects, the elimination of workers’ right to one day off per week, loosened regulations over payday lenders, and a provision to expedite approval for a tar sands pipeline that would bisect the state. Another change made over the Fourth of July weekend eliminates the state’s long-standing living wage law and replaces all references to a “living wage” with “minimum wage.”
During this week’s debate, Democrats offered 31 amendments aimed at undoing some of these provisions and restoring some money to the state’s schools, but all were rejected by the Republican majority.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle used scatological imagery in describing the finished budget — which lays off hundreds of public employees and could shift up to $600 million from public schools to vouchers for private and religious schools — but nearly every Republican in the Assembly voted to pass it.
The budget now goes to Walker’s desk, where he says he is reviewing it and is prepared to use his line item veto power.