The Latest: Committee approves $76 billion Wisconsin budget

MADISON, Wis. — The Latest on the Wisconsin state budget (all times local):

8:46 p.m.

The $76 billion Wisconsin budget is headed to the state Assembly and Senate for approval.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee passed the two-year spending plan Wednesday night on a party line vote, more than two months after the budget was due. Current spending levels have continued during the impasse.

The spending plan sends more aid to K-12 schools, increases funding for the University of Wisconsin System while freezing tuition and imposes new work and drug testing requirements on Medicaid recipients.

Republicans were unable to reach a long-term funding solution for roads, opting instead to borrow about $400 million more and increase fees on electric and hybrid car drivers.

The Assembly is expected to vote on it next week, followed quickly by the Senate.


7:50 p.m.

Republicans have voted to require the University of Wisconsin to monitor teaching workloads and develop policies rewarding those who teach more than average.

The Joint Finance Committee voted Wednesday to restore that provision to the budget that Gov. Scott Walker had recommended. UW President Ray Cross had urged the Legislature earlier this year not to dictate workload policies, saying campus administrators all had one in place already.

The language was added to the state budget in a final catch-all motion approved by the committee.

It also voted to prohibit all UW campuses from requiring that only faculty members, those granted tenure or academics with advanced degrees be considered for chancellor positions or UW president.


6:30 p.m.

The Legislature's Republican-controlled budget committee has voted to cut taxes for primarily wealthy taxpayers but not for the working poor.

The Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday rejected Gov. Scott Walker's call to increase a tax credit for the working poor by $20 million. The committee also voted to eliminate the state's alternative minimum tax, which is typically paid by people who earn between $200,000 and $500,000 a year. It also benefits about 50 millionaires.

That tax cut will cost about $7 million a year.

Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland says Republicans are showing their priorities by helping millionaires and "kicking working families while they're down." Wisconsin is one of only six states with the tax and Republicans defended removing it, saying it would help clean up the tax code.


5:20 p.m.

The Legislature's Republican-controlled budget committee plans to eliminate the state's alternative minimum tax. The tax is typically paid by people who earn between $200,000 and $500,000 a year but also benefits millionaires.

The Joint Finance Committee was to vote Wednesday on eliminating the tax starting in the 2019 tax year. That is a $7 million tax cut for some of the state's wealthiest taxpayers.

Republicans have long targeted the tax for elimination. It is charged to people who have a large number of deductions and is higher than what they would otherwise pay.

An analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows that nearly 50 taxpayers who earned more than $1 million a year would benefit from the tax cut.

Democrats don't have the votes to stop it.


5 p.m.

Republicans plan to reject Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to increase a tax credit more than $20 million for the working poor.

Walker had proposed increasing the benefit for about 130,000 that he had cut in 2011. But the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee on Wednesday planned to vote down his proposal.

Walker had wanted to liberalize Earned Income Tax Credit benefits while also softening penalties under the program for newly married, dual income, couples. He had also called for increasing maximum benefits for low-income workers with one child.

Democrats assailed Walker when he and the Republican-led Legislature voted to cut the EITC in 2011. Walker's move to increase the benefits had won bipartisan support.

The committee plans to complete work on the budget late Wednesday.


4 p.m.

Property taxes paid by Wisconsin businesses would be cut by nearly $75 million under a Republican proposal that has been added to the state budget.

The proposal approved Wednesday by the Joint Finance Committee targets machinery, tools and patterns not considered manufacturing property under state law. Republican backers say the tax cut will primarily benefit smaller businesses and not large manufacturers.

Republicans say they decided to reduce business taxes rather than go along with Gov. Scott Walker's proposal to cut personal income taxes and waive sales taxes on back-to-school purchases once a year.

The tax cut was added to the $76 billion budget as the committee pushed to complete its work on the two-year spending plan.

The full Legislature could vote on the budget as soon as next week.


3:15 p.m.

The Legislature's budget-writing committee has approved an expansion of the state program extending taxpayer-funded vouchers to students with disabilities.

The changes approved Wednesday are projected to double enrollment in the program that began last year. Democrats object, saying costs could go well beyond the projected $3.1 million more per year. That is because there is no cap on expenses that could be covered.

Under the changes, enrollment in the program is expected to increase by 250 students in the 2018 school year. In 2016, there were about 200 students in the program.

Democrats say it diverts more money from public schools to private schools, something they have long fought against. But Republican supporters say it provides parents with special needs children more options.


2:40 p.m.

Gov. Scott Walker's proposals to cut income and sales taxes are being rejected by the Legislature's budget committee.

Co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee said Wednesday they will not be including the tax cuts in the state budget. The panel plans to complete its work on the $76 billion spending plan later Wednesday or early Thursday.

Walker had wanted to cut income taxes an average of $44 per taxpayer. He also called for a sales tax holiday one weekend in August for certain back-to-school items.

Instead of doing those tax cuts, the committee plans to spend nearly $75 million a year to cut a tax paid by businesses on machinery, tools and other equipment. That tax cut would not apply to manufacturers.


2:10 p.m.

A program that extends taxpayer funded vouchers to students with special needs would be expanded under a Republican proposal.

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee was to vote Wednesday on various changes that would expand the program by an estimated 250 students starting in the 2018 school year. The estimated $3.1 million cost would be taken from the budgets of the public school the students currently attend before they use the voucher to attend private school.

Supporters of the program that began last year say the vouchers help provide more options for disabled students and their families. But opponents say the program diverts money to private voucher schools and students there won't receive the same legal protections they are guaranteed in public schools.


8:30 a.m.

Wisconsin's $76 billion state budget is two months late, but it could move through the Legislature in just a few days.

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee was slated to meet Wednesday to complete its work, clearing the way for the Assembly to act next week.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Wednesday that the full Assembly could take up the budget on Sept. 13 or the next day, Sept. 14. If the Assembly passes it on Sept. 13, the Senate could give it final approval on Sept. 14.

The budget was due on July 1 but Republicans who control the Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker had been unable to reach agreement on several outstanding issues, primarily how to pay for roads.


8:18 a.m.

Whether to cut income taxes and eliminate sales taxes one weekend a year for back-to-school purchases are among the final pieces of the Wisconsin state budget to be voted on.

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee is set to complete its work on the two-year spending plan Wednesday. It will be considering Gov. Scott Walker's proposed income tax cut, as well as the sales tax holiday.

Lawmakers have indicated they intend to not cut personal income taxes and instead reduce the personal property tax that's paid by businesses on furniture, equipment and other property they own.

The Republican-controlled panel is also set to vote on a final catch-all motion that may loosen regulation of the rent-to-own industry. A coalition of faith and consumer groups on Tuesday urged them not to do that.