It’s budget time in Wisconsin! Over the next five months, our elected officials will finalize how our hard-earned tax dollars will be spent. The law requires, kind of, that the two-year budget be completed by June 30 of odd-numbered years so that it can be put into effect on July 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year.
I say the law kind of requires this June 30 deadline because if the legislature and governor haven’t finalized a new budget by the deadline, nothing really happens. The old budget remains in effect until a new budget is decided on—which has happened as late as October. Not meeting the deadline doesn’t put the state in any financial jeopardy.
Our full-time state legislature convenes two-year sessions beginning in January after of odd-numbered years following the fall elections in even-numbered years. The main order of business in the first year of the two-year session is the budget.
The process begins with the governor giving the legislature his executive budget shortly after he gives his budget speech to the state legislature. Then the legislature begins its work on the budget, assigning it to the powerful Joint Finance Committee. The committee will typically schedule a series of public hearings around the state, providing an opportunity for citizens to give their opinion about the budget and their ideas for improving it.
After the hearings are held, and after numerous amendments are offered to the budget bill based on input from citizens and representatives and senators, the state legislature will have what we call an up or down vote—meaning no more amendments can be offered. They vote yes or no on the budget bill. If the bill passes in both houses, it goes to the governor who has a powerful line-item veto pen that gets frequently used in a situation such as we have here with our split government. Once the legislature receives the bill back from the governor, they can attempt to over-ride his vetoes, which would be pretty much impossible right now.
The process isn’t bad; but the details in the budget can be. Budgets are about priorities. The governor gets first crack at laying out his priorities; then the legislature puts out its priorities in this nearly two-thousand page bill.
So far this session, the governor has given his budget address, presented the legislature his executive budget bill, and the legislative leadership in both houses have assigned it to the Finance Committee, where the details are being close examined.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who will have a great deal of say about what we end up with for a budget, has weighed in on the governor’s proposal. Vos points out that the governor’s budget calls for a 23% increase in spending in the first year alone. According to Vos, the tax cuts the governor is proposing are “hand-picked rather than for all Wisconsinites,” which is what the Republican majority has been looking to do—implement a flat tax that would be the same for all taxpayers.
Vos then gives what he calls Governor Evers’ Liberal Wishlist, which…
That’s all in the budget!
Now, that list is by no means exhaustive. Over time we will learn more—but this list gives us a pretty good idea about the governor’s priorities. Now we wait to see what the Republican-led state legislature ends up with.
Too many people kind of check out of government when budgets come up. That’s flat-out dangerous when we are talking about how our government is preparing to spend over $103 billion of our money—including the over $7 billion projected current surplus. Good stewardship demands that we engage with our elected officials to let them know what our priorities are. Let’s not let the budget just happen to us; “we the people” need to be actively engaged in determining our how money is spent.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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