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Walker to sign budget as legislative session wraps up

By   /   June 24, 2011  /   No Comments

By Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker plans to cap the penultimate week of the spring legislative session Sunday by signing the biennial budget bill in Green Bay.

As passed by the Legislature, the bill is a $66-billion spending plan that takes effect July 1, but lawmakers have been lobbying the governor all week for changes.

Republicans tout the budget plan as the first in years that doesn’t rely on accounting tricks to be balanced.

State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, co-chairs the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee and praised the spending plan.

“We’re paying off our bills and making smart financial decisions (so) our state economy can continue to grow and more jobs can be created,” Vos wrote in his weekly newsletter.

A bipartisan group of legislators is asking Walker to veto a provision critics say would make it harder for small breweries to compete.

The provision combines the permits and licenses brewers get from municipalities into one permit from the state. Craft brewers fear the law will restrict their ability to wholesale beer made by other brewers, as well as limit their ability to own bars, among other concerns.

Democrats are pushing Walker to veto $466 million in planned cuts to Medicaid and BadgerCare, which helps cover medical costs for low-income families.

Democratic lawmakers also are asking Walker to remove several non-fiscal items from the budget, including a provision rolling back restrictions on payday lending.

The proposal cuts aid to local government and school districts, Democrats claimed, while providing tax incentives for businesses aimed at jump-starting the economy and encouraging businesses to hire, the GOP said.

State Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said she is worried that changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Homestead Credit will increase taxes for working families and senior citizens by $69.8 million.

“Additionally, many provisions included in the budget will reduce state support for our core priorities, including education, public safety and local services,” Shilling said in a statement.

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor will announce his list of vetoes before Sunday’s budget signing, but didn’t say when or how that announcement would come.

The budget signing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at Fox Valley Metal-Tech Inc., 1201 Parkview Road, Green Bay.

WI to become 49th state to allow concealed carry of weapons

Illinois likely will be the only state in the union not to allow its residents to carry concealed weapons after the Wisconsin Assembly voted Tuesday, 68-27, to pass the measure.

The Senate passed the bill, which Walker is expected to sign into law soon.

To get the concealed carry permit, the bill, proposed by state Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, R-Crivitz, requires at least two hours of training by a private instructor.

Legislators push for federally funded extension of unemployment benefits

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, and state Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Whitefish Bay, called on Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, on Thursday to tweak state law to give Wisconsin access to $89 million in federal funding.

The state's Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council recommended the changes to the law this week.

The $89 million in federal funding would not be added to the $1.3 billion Wisconsin owes the federal government. The state borrowed the money to pay out unemployment benefits, after the state's unemployment fund sank into the red in 2009.

The funds would help about 10,000 unemployed workers in the state and extend access to unemployment benefits from 73 weeks to 86 weeks, according to a news release from Barca.

“At a time when Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans are instituting a one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits and cutting job training at technical colleges, we must do everything we can to help our displaced workers, serve our communities and strengthen our economy,” Barca said.

Andrew Welhouse, spokesman for Fitzgerald, said the senator supports Barca’s proposed change and hopes to schedule a vote on the issue.