Multi-billion dollar deficit keep budget debate focused on spending - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Multi-billion dollar deficit keep budget debate focused on spending


MADISON (WKOW) -- It's a common tactic in politics.

"For years lawmakers from both parties would load the budget full of all kinds of policy items that really didn't have anything to do with the state budget," says The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's Mike McCabe.

The move gives controversial bills a better chance of passing.

But McCabe says there is less of that this year because of the multi-billion dollar deficit.

McCabe says the shortfall is forcing lawmakers to stick to money issues.

Representative Pedro Colon is Joint Finance Committee Vice Chair. He's seen it first hand.

"A lot of budgets serve as a baseboard for new initiatives for pilot programs in the past. We've been seeing less of that. We're seeing bare bones focusing on core values," Colon says.

Some non-money policies that were in the budget were taken out.

The biggest example, the statewide smoking ban.

"Pulling it out and debating it separately, the public benefits because you get both sides of the argument, the public has a chance to weigh in and has a chance to call their legislators and write and e-mail them to say here's how I feel about that," McCabe says.

Representative Robin Vos is one of four republicans on The Joint Finance Committee.

He says there are still a lot of non-money related policies left in this budget.

Including a car insurance provision he says would increase car insurance for Wisconsin drivers by 30 to 40 percent.

"That's an example of how it doesn't have to do with the state budget, but it all has to be in the state budget in order for the democrats to get it passed because it's too controversial."

Still, McCabe says the definition of "non-fiscal" or "non-money" items can be debated.

For example, domestic partner benefits.

Some say it's a non-money item and feel it should be removed from the budget, while others say it has a "financial impact" to the state so it deserves to be in the budget.

The Joint Finance Committee hopes to have their version of the budget complete by Friday - then it goes to the House and Senate before heading to the Governor's desk.

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