MADISON, Wis. – Gov. Scott Walker signed the next Wisconsin state budget into law Sunday, brushing aside complaints from his own party about the $73 billion spending plan and fulfilling his promise to get it done before he announces he is running for the Republican nomination for president.
Walker signed the budget at Valveworks USA, a valve and wellhead component manufacturer in Waukesha.
“The budget I signed today again brings real reform to Wisconsin and allows everyone more opportunity for a brighter future,” Walker said in a statement.
Walker plans to announce his presidential candidacy today. He had hoped Republican majorities in the Assembly and Senate would enable his party to finish the budget early and allow him to coast into his announcement. But the budget ended up on his desk a week into the new fiscal year marked by the most “no” votes from GOP lawmakers of any of his three state budgets. One Republican, state Rep. Rob Brooks, described the budget as “crap.”
The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee handed the governor a string of defeats as it spent months revising the two-year budget.
The committee scrapped his plans to grant the University of Wisconsin System autonomy from state oversight and scaled back a $300 million cut the governor wanted to impose on the system by $50 million. The panel also rejected deep funding cuts for K-12 public schools and the popular SeniorCare prescription drug program as well as a proposal to borrow $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
The committee slipped a provision into the budget that Walker’s office helped draft that would have dismantled Wisconsin’s open records law. Walker and Republican leaders did a quick about-face, stripping the provision in the face of a wave of bipartisan outrage.
Assembly Republicans, in particular, were extremely critical of the budget, with 11 GOP members voting against the plan on the floor.
The spending plan still gives Walker plenty of talking points as he courts conservative voters in early primary states in the coming weeks. The budget expands the private school voucher program, which provides state subsidies for students to attend private schools, including religious ones. It also extends a freeze on in-state UW tuition for another two years and imposes no sales or income tax increases.
Walker made 104 changes to the spending document using his expansive veto power.
He used his veto to wipe out $1 million in grants for nonprofit conservation organizations, saying he objects to handing out the money without accountability.
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