UPDATE: Assembly passes budget, Dems refuse to offer amendments - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Assembly passes budget after Dems stunning refusal to offer amendments


MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Assembly voted 55-42 early Wednesday afternoon to approve the 2013-15 state budget.

The vote came quickly after Assembly Democrats made the stunning decision to offer none of the 211 amendments they had drawn up to change the GOP budget proposal.  Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) says Democrats will instead take their opposition directly to the public.

"When you keep hitting a brick wall, you have to try something different," Rep. Barca said after the vote, claiming that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos made it clear to the Democrats on Tuesday that none of their amendments would be accepted.

"I'm disappointed, but I can tell you I'm not surprised," said Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who says he be lives the Democrats strategy will be seen as a failure. 

Rep. Vos says he has never seen such a tactic employed during his entire political career, but Democrats say it was Vos who prompted their actions.

"When he came to our caucus yesterday, he made a very strong statement about there will be no amendments accepted, so that solidified the deal for us," said Rep. Barca.

The $70 billion budget would cut income taxes by $650 million, expand private school vouchers statewide and reject a federally funded expansion of Medicaid. 

The Assembly adopted a Republican-introduced amendment making 27 changes. One includes not capping a property tax credit program for disabled veterans. Another would delay the loosening of requirements for high-capacity wells for at least a year. 

Other changes in an earlier draft were dropped. One sought to limit public access to a proposed mining site near Lake Superior. The other loosened enrollment requirements for Racine's voucher schools.

Three Republicans in the Assembly voted against the budget: Representative Steve Nass, Representative Steve Kestell and Representative Howard Marklein.

The budget now heads to the Senate for debate Thursday, where Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald seemed impressed at least by the execution of the Assembly Democrat's plan.

"If there was some kind of secret among Democratic leadership over there and they kept it under wraps, that's amazing, because its hard to keep a secret in this building," said Sen. Fitzgerald.

But Sen. Fitzgerald is confident the Assembly version of the budget will pass the Senate without any changes.

"I think we're in pretty good shape right now," said Sen. Fitzgerald.

"We'll find out tomorrow," replied Sen. Chris Larsen (D-Milwaukee), the Minority Leader.  "And if they decide to vote against some of these common sense amendments they're gonna have a tough time explaining that back to their neighbors."

Its clear Senate Democrats will be offering several such amendments, especially in the areas of the budget that involve school choice and medicaid expansion.

They hope to pressure at least two moderate Republicans into supporting some of their changes.

The Senate convenes at 10:00 a.m. Thursday.

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