April 7, 2017
The action by the Joint Finance Committee, which is controlled 12-4 by Republicans, means that each of the items will have to be introduced as individual bills to be considered by the legislature. The GOP hold comfortable margins of 64-35 in the state Assembly and 20-13 in the state Senate. The legislature will consider and amend Walker’s budget over the next few months before sending it back to him for final approval this summer.
The move by the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee was unusual because legislators have not done that to a state budget introduced by a governor of their own party since before 1993. Generally in the past, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has identified non-spending policy items in the budget and the Joint Finance Committee has removed some or all of the items identified by the bureau.
Several of the proposals were controversial and affected education, the environment, private-sector workers, and state construction projects, among other areas. Some of these proposals were sought by business, agriculture, pro-school voucher and other wealthy special interests that have contributed millions of dollars to legislative and statewide candidates in recent years. Some of the proposals dumped by the Joint Finance Committee include:
- Allowing University of Wisconsin System (UW) students to opt out of paying segregated, non-tuition fees for extra-curricular student programs;
- Requiring UW undergraduate students to have an internship or work experience before being allowed to graduate;
- Removing a requirement that public and private charter and voucher schools teach students for a minimum number of hours each school year;
- Requiring the UW System to track the number of hours faculty and staff teach and reward those who teach more;
- Requiring private voucher schools to conduct background checks on their teachers;
- Nixing a study to shift oversight of controversial factory farms from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection;
- Repealing the state prevailing wage for state building and highway projects. Prevailing wage laws set minimum pay levels for private sector workers whose employers are awarded state public works projects;
- Removing a Walker plan to make it more difficult for some victims of job discrimination to recover legal fees and force them to pay the legal fees of their employers in some cases;
- Creating performance report cards on technical colleges that would affect their state funding;
- A pilot project to create a circuit court in some counties to hear cases involving businesses;
- Increasing the fine for inattentive driving and texting while driving.