UPDATE: Wisconsin's Financial Crisis

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 30, 2009 --- Noon

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Many promises were made and broken during the nearly five-month process of passing Wisconsin's new two-year budget.

Gov. Jim Doyle said the middle class would be protected while he and fellow Democrats in charge of the Legislature figured out how to solve a $6.6 billion shortfall. While general sales and income taxes weren't raised, more than $2 billion in other taxes and fees did go up.

Assembly Democrats said they would work with Republicans under a new spirit of bipartisanship. That didn't happen as every Republican voted against the budget.

And there was also talk of the process being more open than ever before. Alas, it was as secretive as ever.

Democrats did promise to pass the budget on time. Doyle signed it into law on Monday, a full two days early.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, June 29, 2009 -- 5:10 pm
By Zac Schultz

Maple Bluff: Governor Doyle signed the state budget Monday, making this the first time since 1977 the budget was passed on time.

The $62 billion biennial budget uses a combination of spending cuts, tax hikes and federal money to close a $6.7 billion deficit.

Doyle made 81 partial vetoes to the document passed last week by the Senate and the Assembly.

Two of the vetoes will have a direct impact on anybody who spends money in Dane County. The budget creates the Dane County Regional Transit Authority, or RTA, which would be able to levy a 1/2% sales tax to pay for mass transit in the metro area.

Doyle vetoed a provision that would require the taxpayers to approve the sales tax increase through a binding referendum. "I think counties can make their own decision," says Doyle. "I didn't tell them they can't have a referendum, I just don't think as a matter all across the board that as we move to RTA's that the referendum should be required."

Now the county can impose the tax increase on their own, but Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz says they planned all along to go to referendum. "We will have one regardless of the fact that it's not mandated."

Doyle's second veto may make it harder to pass the referendum. The sales tax increase would bring in about $40 million a year. 25% was supposed to go for road improvements, which would appeal to voters who don't ride the bus or wouldn't take the train. "That would help, that would continue to make the case that this was a balanced approach," says Cieslewicz.

Doyle's veto means the money can only go towards bus and commuter rail. With light rail years away, "the RTA is there to support bus service primarily," says Cieslewicz.

Mayor Cieslewicz says the earliest a referendum would be scheduled is fall of 2010.

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UPDATED Monday, June 29, 2009 --- 4:10 p.m.

Highlights of vetoes issued by Wisconsin governor

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Highlights of the 81 vetoes issued Monday by Gov. Jim Doyle to the two-year, $62 billion state budget passed last week by the Legislature:

FILM TAX BREAKS: The 1-year-old film tax break program, credited with helping to land the Johnny Depp gangster film "Public Enemies," will not be as generous as lawmakers wanted. A revamped tax break program would have had $1.5 million a year for qualified projects under the Legislature's budget, but Doyle reduced it to $500,000 a year, the amount he proposed in his original budget released in February. The current program has no limit.

EARMARKS: Doyle cut funding for pet projects including $50,000 for a new playground in the town of Beloit, $200,000 for the Milwaukee Public Museum and $25,000 a year for a domestic abuse center in Merrill that serves five counties. Other pet projects remained, including $46,000 for new recycling bins in the town of Wrightstown and $500,000 to renovate an opera house in Oshkosh.

EARLY RELEASE: The Department of Corrections, not judges, will be able to determine whether people on probation who have served less than half their term can be discharged from probation. Doyle also allowed more inmates to qualify for the new early release program by expanding eligibility to those who committed certain offenses and who already have been sentenced, instead of only those who are convicted after the law takes effect.

MILWAUKEE COUNTY: The state's largest county would not be able to levy up to a 0.65 percent sales tax to pay for buses and public safety. Doyle said he objected to the increase because it did not advance the goal of building regional transit systems across the state. He let stand such a system for Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine counties along with a new $18 car rental tax to pay for commuter rail. However, Doyle urged that the counties not impose the entire amount during the early planning stages that won't be as expensive as when a commuter line connecting the three southeast Wisconsin cities is constructed.

REGIONAL TRANSIT: Regional transit authorities created to help develop high-speed rail systems and make other transportation improvements will be created in the Chippewa Valley, the Chequamegon Bay region, Dane County and southeast Wisconsin. However, Doyle vetoed requirements that there be a local vote approving any sales tax increases to pay for those improvements before they take effect.

RADIO TOWERS: Burnett County will not be allowed to raise sales taxes up to 0.5 percent to pay for new radio towers.

CAR INSURANCE: The new requirement that all drivers in Wisconsin have liability insurance remains, but the mandatory amount of coverage drivers would have to purchase would only increase in 2010. Doyle had proposed raising those amounts again in 2011 and 2012. Instead, the levels would be adjusted again after five years. Doyle said he thought the move would help lower projected insurance rate increases.

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: A new position in Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton's office, bringing the number of her staff from three to four, will not be created.

PHONE FEES: New 75-cent fees on all phone lines will not be diverted in two years to pay for emergency 911 services. Instead, the money raised will continue to go to local governments to pay for police and fire protection.

COURT FEES: There will be no increase from $5 to $10 for a variety of court fees including liens and warrants.

BOAT STICKERS: A new $15 sticker for boaters coming to Wisconsin from other states will not be created.

ATTORNEY SALARIES: One million dollars for assistant district attorney and public defender raises is cut.

STATE SPENDING: Doyle ordered an additional $200 million in state agency budget cuts, but state budget director Dave Schmiedicke said later it was unclear how those would be implemented. Schmiedicke said they would equate to less than a 1 percent cut, if applied equally across all of state government. Doyle made the move to increase the state's reserve fund from about $65 million to $270 million.

PRIVATE CONTRACTORS: New requirements the Legislature wanted to oversee how much money is spent by the state on private contractors was removed.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, June 29, 2009 --- 11:00 a.m.

NBC15's Zac Schultz is at today's signing ceremony. Check back throughout the day for updates from Zac regarding the Governor's vetoes.

Press Release from the Governor's Office:

MADISON – Joined by local officials, business and education leaders and Wisconsin citizens, Governor Jim Doyle signed into law today a state budget that builds upon the state’s commitment to expand access to affordable health care coverage, invests in Wisconsin businesses that will create jobs and lead to future growth, and continues to protect priorities like education and police and fire protection, in the face of unprecedented national economic challenges. Today, for the first time since 1977, the budget will be enacted before the start of the new biennium.

“Throughout this process, I have believed that the choices we make will reveal clearly who we are and what we value,” Governor Doyle said. “I knew that if we came together, worked hard and made the right choices, we could pass a budget that protected priorities like education, health care and public safety. I knew we could avoid irreparable harm to our services – and our people – by making sure we made responsible cuts that took the path of least destruction. I knew we could still invest in our future to strengthen Wisconsin for generations to come. We have done just that, and on time.”

Protecting What is Most Important to Wisconsin

The budget Governor Doyle signed today protects Wisconsin’s priorities by strengthening schools, maintaining police and fire protection, and expanding access to affordable health care coverage.

“Education has always been my top priority,” Governor Doyle said. “There is no better route to success for individuals and us as a state than solid educational opportunities. While cities are also forced to make cuts, another major goal of mine was to ensure funding for police and fire services that protect our citizens. We accomplished that. This budget ensures that Wisconsin families have affordable access to health care, and allows us to maintain our status as a model for the nation.”

From federal and state funding, schools will see an increase of $107 million over the next two years. The budget permits school districts to exceed revenue caps for energy efficiency costs immediately, and for school safety, nurses and transportation costs in two years.

The budget continues to invest in the Governor’s BadgerCare Plus program so all children continue to have access to health care and support program expansions covering low-income families and adults, thereby ensuring that 98 percent of Wisconsin citizens will now have access to affordable, high-quality care. It also requires insurance companies cover treatment for autistic children and mental health treatment by additional licensed providers.

Cutting What is Not Essential

The Governor’s budget makes the deepest cuts the state has ever faced.

“Nobody enjoys making deep cuts, particularly during a time when people need services most,” Governor Doyle said. “But just as Wisconsin families and businesses cut back, so can state government. When times are better, we can restore what is necessary and we can invest to make our state stronger. These cuts – over $3 billion – are painful and frustrate me personally because we have been forced into this by national and international economic forces that are not in our control.”

State spending is cut by over $3 billion in this budget. It cuts from existing state programs over the next two years by:

Imposing across the board cuts of 1 percent for state agencies and many agencies and programs were cut by an additional 5 percent or more.

Rolling back the 2 percent state employee raises that were to be effective this month.

Directing state agencies to review all service contracts to reduce personnel costs.

Laying off at least 1,000 state employees.

Overall, general fund spending in this budget is 3 percent less than in the last biennium.

Protecting the Middle Class against Tax Increases

The budget does not raise taxes on middle class families, it does not increase the gas tax and it does not include a sales tax increase.

“I am proud to say that we have a bill here today that does not include a gas tax increase,” Governor Doyle said. “I am also proud that legislators agreed with me that we couldn’t close the budget gap by raising taxes. This budget does not include a sales tax increase and does not raise income taxes on middle class families.”

Property taxes will be held in check by maintaining tight limits on municipal and school district levies and increasing the first dollar credit on property tax bills. Taxpayers will pay one percent more on any earnings above $300,000 a year. If you are like 99 percent of Wisconsin, you will not be affected.

Leaving this State in Better Shape than it was Before

The budget builds on the Governor’s commitment to strengthen the state’s financial position and make key investments to our state. The Governor worked hard to ensure that the state finishes the biennium with $270 million in reserve.

“Wisconsin is definitely open for business,” Governor Doyle said. “Despite challenges, I am very confident that we made the right investments and decisions to move toward an economy that is stronger than ever and built around the things we value: education, entrepreneurship, manufacturing, agriculture and science and technology that create the good-paying, family-supporting jobs we need in this state -- real things that we can count on to make life better.”

The budget:

Cuts business taxes by over $130 million during the next four years through tax credits for research and development, job creation, and new business venture investments.

Expands eligibility and access to tax credits to attract new business and create jobs by:

Tripling the Accelerate Wisconsin tax credit for angel and venture investors in support of start-up technology companies;

Creating a capital gains tax exemption for investments of up to $10 million in new businesses;

Consolidating five existing tax credit programs (development zones, enterprise development zones, agricultural development zones, technology zones and airport development zones), increasing the ability to target those credits to businesses that create jobs, invest capital, provide training and retraining to new and incumbent workers, and retain jobs in companies with corporate headquarters in Wisconsin;

Encouraging the continued growth of Wisconsin's agricultural economy through the creation of two new income tax credits for the modernization of dairy manufacturing and meat processing facilities;

Awarding a refundable tax credit equal to 10 percent of payroll after new jobs are created;

Awarding a refundable tax credit equal to 10 percent of significant capital investments in an enterprise zone;

Increasing the states commitment to worker training; and
Awarding tax credits for companies that significantly increase their commitment to research and development and exempting equipment from the sales tax, just as it is for manufacturers.

Improves access to and the quality of higher education by:

o Increasing the amount of financial aid in the State of Wisconsin by $20 million;

o Ensuring that families with incomes less than $60,000 won’t face tuition increases and keeping tuition increases modest for all other students and families;

o Providing $25 million for the Wisconsin Covenant to augment private funding already invested in preparation for the incoming class of fall 2011; and

o Investing in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery at UW-Madison, the Great Lakes Bio-energy Research Center, the Wisconsin Genomics Initiative, and providing $240 million in bonding to support new facilities to advance UW-Milwaukee’s research and teaching agenda.

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UPDATED Monday, June 29, 2009 --- 11:00 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle is vetoing 81 items in the two-year $62 billion state budget. The vetoes amount to $10 million.

Doyle announced the vetoes on Monday, the same day he signed the new budget into law.

Doyle's vetoes leave most of the major parts of the budget deal reached by the Democratic-controlled Legislature in tact.

However, he did remove a Milwaukee Transit Authority that could have levied up to six-tenths of a cent sales tax increase to pay for transportation improvements and other county expenses.

Through his vetoes he further reduced the state's film tax incentive program, softened new minimum car insurance liability levels, and allowed more people to be eligible for a new prison early release program.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

* * * * * * * * * *

Doyle lowers film tax incentives through veto

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle is using his veto power to lower the amount of money for film tax breaks.

Doyle had proposed scrapping the 1-year-old program and replacing it with a $500,000 annual grant program.

The Legislature in its budget passed Friday created a $1.5 million program instead. But on Monday Doyle used his partial veto power to lower the amount available to $500,000 a year, identical to what he had proposed in February.

The current program has no limits.

Film supporters have said that what Doyle wants will dry up the fledgling film industry in the state and prevent large Hollywood productions from coming to Wisconsin.

But in his veto, Doyle says $1.5 million for film tax breaks is excessive.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, June 29, 2009 --- 9:00 a.m.

From the Governor's Office:
Governor Doyle to Sign State Budget to Build a Stronger Wisconsin

Governor Jim Doyle will sign the FY 2009-2011 state budget today (Monday, June 29, 2009 at 11:00 a.m.) at the Executive Residence in Madison.

The budget signing marks the first time a budget has been completed on time since 1977.

Governor Doyle’s “Stronger Wisconsin” budget builds upon the state’s commitment to expand access to affordable health care coverage, invests in Wisconsin businesses that will create jobs and lead to future growth, and continues to protect priorities like education and police and fire protection, in the face of unprecedented national economic challenges.

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UPDATED: Friday, June 26, 2009 --- 7:50 p.m.

Lawmakers have given final approval to the state budget.

The Assembly passed the $62 billion spending plan 51-46 Friday evening. The state Senate approved the measure 17-15 early Friday morning.

The budget plugs the state's record $6.6 billion deficit through an array of higher taxes and cuts to state government.

The plan now goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who can use his partial veto power to extensively rewrite the document. Doyle has been pressuring lawmakers to finish work on the plan so he can sign it into law before the new fiscal year begins Wednesday.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

HERE'S HOW IT BREAKS DOWN:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Cigarette smokers and car owners, phone users and high earners, state workers and prison inmates all have a reason to care about the two-year state budget that Wisconsin's Legislature passed Friday. Some of the ways the budget reaches into people's daily lives:

SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM:

-- Cigarette taxes will rise 75 cents a pack to $2.52 beginning Sept. 1. That comes after a $1 per pack increase that started this year.

HIGH EARNERS:

-- People making over $225,000 a year, and households earning more than $300,000 a year, will have to pay higher income taxes effective this tax year.

CAPITAL GAINS:

-- The tax exemption on capital gains profits, currently 60 percent, will drop to 30 percent.

DIAL 911:

-- Anyone who owns a cell phone, landline phone or any device that can call 911 will have to pay a new fee of 75 cents per month, which will be directed to local governments to help pay for fire and police protection.

SAILING AWAY:

-- It will cost 15 percent more to register a boat in Wisconsin, and a new nonresident $15 boat sticker will be created beginning in January.

PACKING HEAT:

-- Prospective gun owners will have to pay $13, up from $8, to get the required background check.

CALLING JOHNNY DEPP:

-- The 1-year-old film tax break program credited with helping lure Johnny Depp and the "Public Enemies" production to Wisconsin will be eliminated and replaced with a more conservative program that film backers say wouldn't be generous enough to land A-list Hollywood stars.

CALLING ALL CONVICTS:

-- Some felons will be able to get out of prison earlier under a package of reforms designed to ease overcrowding, save money and better prepare inmates for life in the community.

CALLING ALL YOUNG CONVICTS:

-- Criminals up to age 25, instead of 21, could have their records expunged if they meet certain criteria.

BUCKLE UP:

-- Police will be allowed to pull over drivers for not wearing a seat belt. Currently, police can issue a ticket for that offense only if the driver is pulled over for a different violation.

SALES TAXES:

-- While sales taxes will not increase statewide, they could be raised in the Chippewa Valley, Dane, Milwaukee, Ashland and Bayfield counties to pay for transit needs, including high-speed rail. Rental car fees could also soar from $2 to $18 in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties to pay for a rail line connecting those three cities.

TEACHER PAY:

-- Teachers may be in line for larger raises since the 16-year-old state law known as the "qualified economic offer," which effectively places a cap on teacher pay increases, is eliminated.

IMMIGRANT TUITION:

-- Children of illegal immigrants who graduate from Wisconsin high schools and have lived in the state for three years could qualify for in-state tuition at Wisconsin universities and technical colleges.

STATE WORKERS:

-- There's not much good news. All state workers will be forced to take 16 days off without pay over the next two years. About 1,400 could be laid off. A 2 percent pay raise is being rescinded, pending union approval for many workers, and most state agencies are being cut 6 percent.

INSURANCE:

-- Insurance companies will be required to cover autism and mental health disorders.

DOMESTIC PARTNERS:

-- Some of the same benefits enjoyed by married couples will be extended to gay and lesbian couples who live together and form domestic partnerships. Domestic partners of state employees will receive the same state retirement and health insurance benefits as spouses.

CAR INSURANCE:

-- Wisconsin drivers will have to buy liability insurance starting in a year or face up to a $500 fine. Minimum car insurance requirements also will rise, which the insurance industry says will lead to higher rates.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATED Friday, June 26, 2009 --- 10:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin drivers would have to buy liability insurance for their vehicles under the state budget poised to pass the Legislature.

The new requirement has been proposed since the 1970s, but always blocked by the insurance industry. This year it's in the state budget that passed the Senate early Friday morning and will be before the Assembly later on Friday. Gov. Jim Doyle has expressed his support for it.

Sen. John Lehman, a Democrat from Racine, has proposed the mandate ever since 2001. He says people want it, especially those who have been hit by uninsured drivers.

New Hampshire is the only other state that does not require the insurance. The Wisconsin requirement would take effect in a year.

Anyone pulled over who doesn't have an insurance card would be subject to a $10 fine.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Friday, June 26, 2009 --- 9:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A budget that passed the state Senate early today eliminates a new tax that threatened to increase gas prices.

Also taken out of the budget by Senate Democrats are the special cards allowing illegal immigrants to drive in Wisconsin.

The Assembly is expected to vote on it today.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, June 25, 2009 --- 10:42 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Changes approved Thursday by a special committee created to reach a budget deal:

-- Do not impose a new tax on oil companies as Gov. Jim Doyle and the state Assembly wanted. Under the Assembly version, taxes on gas could go up by as much as 4.4 cents a gallon.

-- Lower capital gains exemptions from the current 60 percent to 30 percent. Gov. Jim Doyle wanted it to be 40 percent, while the Senate had proposed eliminating all exemptions.

-- Do not create a new special card that would allow illegal immigrants to drive legally in Wisconsin.

-- Allow children of illegal immigrants who attend state universities and colleges to pay in-state tuition, as Doyle proposed and the Assembly agreed to do.

-- Keep the current threshold required for someone to be found partially liable for damages in a civil lawsuit at 51 percent at fault. Doyle had proposed lowering it to 1 percent, which brought an angry response from the business community warning that the threat of additional lawsuits and higher insurance costs could drive some people out of business. The Assembly rejected Doyle's proposal, and the Senate agreed.

-- Mandate that all car owners must have auto insurance. Doyle said he would support such a move. New Hampshire is the only other state that doesn't currently require drivers to carry car insurance.

-- Immediately repeal a state law known as the "qualified economic offer" that has effectively held teacher pay raises in check for 16 years. The Assembly voted to repeal it in a year.

-- Do not allow Calumet, Outagamie and Winnebago counties to increase sales taxes a half-cent under a regional transit authority to pay for a regional bus system. The Assembly had it, while the Senate had not.

-- Restore $5.4 million in funding for the Wisconsin Department of Justice that the Senate had wanted to cut. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen had argued the deeper cuts would cripple the agency.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, June 25, 2009 --- 9:15 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — There would be no new tax on oil companies and no drivers cards for illegal immigrants under a budget deal crafted by Democrats and to be voted on by a special bipartisan committee of lawmakers.

The deal reached behind closed doors attempts to resolve major differences between the two budgets passed by the Senate and Assembly, which are both controlled by Democrats.

Under the deal released Thursday night, taxes would be raised on capital gains, but not as much as Senate Democrats wanted. Under their budget, there would be no exemptions. But under the deal 30 percent of capital gains would be taxed instead of the current 60 percent.

Once the conference committee approves the agreement, the state Senate plans to vote on it later Thursday. The Assembly could take it up as early as Friday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 24, 2009 --- 8:50 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrats refused to allow Republicans to propose any changes to the state budget during a the hastily called first meeting of a bipartisan committee created to work out a deal.

Republicans accused Democrats of negotiating the real deal on the $62 billion budget in secret and calling this evening's meeting just to make it appear debate was happening in public.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says every step in the budget process has been a charade done behind closed doors.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan says the meeting was designed to discuss 189 items in the budget that passed the Senate and Assembly in different forms.

Governor Jim Doyle is pushing the Legislature to pass a budget by July 1st to help address a $6.6 billion shortfall.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 24, 2009 --- 7:45 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle wants the Legislature meeting in special session Wednesday to pass part of the state budget that will bring in $74 million in federal money if done by Monday.

But leaders of the Legislature say they remain focused on finding a way to pass the entire $62 billion, two-year spending plan, not just the part Doyle singled out for a special session.

Talks continued in private this week among lawmakers and the governor's staff to reach a deal that could allow both the Senate and Assembly to pass a budget before the new fiscal year starts July 1.

Failure to accomplish that puts millions of dollars in federal money at risk and delays the state from dealing with a projected $6.6 billion shortfall.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 23, 2009 --- 4:00 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Most of Wisconsin's state offices would close the day after Thanksgiving, President's Day and two other days over the next two years under a plan to help balance the budget.

Closing offices four days a year is one of the options released Tuesday to help meet Gov. Jim Doyle's order that all workers take eight unpaid days of furlough. The other days would be the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and on Columbus Day, the second Monday in October.

Employment Relations Director Jennifer Donnelly says it will be up to each state office to determine whether it can close on those days. That plan may not work for the University of Wisconsin due to class schedules or places like prisons or hospitals.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 23, 2009 11:50 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle has called a Wednesday special session for state lawmakers to act on making changes to the state's hospital tax to access more federal money.

The changes are included in the two-year state budget. But progress on getting that passed before July 1 has stalled as legislative leaders have yet to find agreement on major differences.

Doyle said Tuesday he was calling on lawmakers to act on the hospital tax portion so the state doesn't lose about $110 million in federal Medicaid money. To get the money, the tax changes must pass the Legislature and be signed by Doyle by Monday.

Doyle says his preference is for the whole budget to pass on time, but he's calling on lawmakers to act to meet what he says are critical financial deadlines.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted Monday, June 22, 2009 -- 5:00pm
By Zac Schultz

Madison: Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants cannot get a driver's license in Wisconsin, but they are still driving.

That's why a broad coalition of groups is making the case to create a special license in the name of safety.

Sanjuana is like many of the undocumented workers in Wisconsin who drive illegally. She has been in the United States for more than 20 years, after emigrating from Mexico. All three of her children are U.S. citizens, but she is not. She spoke to us through a translator. "I have to drive. Sometimes I'm able to have someone give me a ride to work. But currently I need to drive regardless of not having a license."

Sanjuana lost her license in 2008, not because she was a bad driver, but because it expired and she couldn't renew it.

In 2006, Wisconsin passed AB 69, or the Real ID act. The bill was required by the federal government, and it said you needed a social security number to get a state ID, or else you couldn't use the ID to board a plane.

Thousands of illegal and undocumented immigrants now drive with no license, which means each traffic stop could lead to jail and possibly deportation. "You don't have a driver's license because you never had one, you are going to go to jail," says Madison Police Officer Carlos Valentin. "There's no other form legally proving who you are."

Officer Valintin say this causes problems, because they can't identify people and drivers can't get insurance or even register their cars.

That's why the Coalition for Safe Roads wants the state to create a driver's card, which could be used to legally drive a car or identify yourself.

"This issue is really, really important to us," says John Rosenow, a dairy farmer from Cochrane, WI. "I live in a rural area, surrounded by dairy farms. The people working on those dairy farms are immigrants."

An estimated 40% of Wisconsin dairy and ag workers are immigrants. "Nothing's changed. Everybody continues to drive," says Rosenow.

Supporters of this measure say they don't know how many people drive illegally in Wisconsin because they can't get a driver's license, but they say it's probably more than you think. "How many are out there? More than we think," says Officer Valentin. "And probably such a high number that if we really knew the reality it would be scary."

A provision creating the driver's cards was passed in the Assembly version of the budget, but it was not included in the Senate version.

A conference committee will decide if the provision makes the final version that's sent to the Governor.

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UPDATED Monday, June 22, 2009 --- 12:40 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Advocates are making a final push to convince Wisconsin lawmakers to create a new driver's card for illegal immigrants.

Groups representing law enforcement officials, dairy farmers and immigrants held a press conference Monday to push for the cards they say will improve the safety of Wisconsin roads.

Lawmakers are considering whether to create the cards in the state budget. The Assembly agreed to the plan but the Senate has rejected it.

Sen. Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee says 90 percent of constituents who have contacted his office are against giving illegal immigrants driving privileges.

Supporters of the plan were to meet with Carpenter on Monday before rallying outside the Capitol.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Monday, June 22, 2009 --- 9:50 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Advocates are making a final push to convince Wisconsin lawmakers to cut tuition rates and create a new driver's card for illegal immigrants.

Supporters plan a press conference and a rally at the Capitol on Monday as lawmakers consider whether to include those provisions in the final state budget.

The Assembly budget would allow illegal immigrants who graduate from Wisconsin high schools to be eligible for in-state tuition and would create a special driver's card for those who can't prove they are U.S. citizens.

The Senate did not include either measure in its version of the budget. Legislative leaders are expected to begin reconciling their differences this week.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, June 18, 2009 --- 7:50 a.m.

Highlights of changes sought to Wisconsin budget

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Here are changes by Senate Democrats that were in the two-year budget passed Wednesday night. Since the Assembly passed a different version, a conference committee of lawmakers will try to work out a compromise. The budget is supposed to take effect July 1st.

-- Do not impose a new tax on oil companies as Gov. Jim Doyle and the state Assembly wanted. Under the Assembly version, taxes on gas could go up by as much as 4.4 cents a gallon.

-- Remove all capital gains exclusions. Doyle wanted to lower them from 60 percent to 40 percent.

-- Do not create a new special card that would allow illegal immigrants to drive legally in Wisconsin.

-- Do not allow illegal immigrants who attend state universities and colleges to pay in-state tuition, as Doyle proposed and the Assembly agreed to do.

-- Keep the current threshold required for someone to be found partially liable for damages in a civil lawsuit at 51 percent at fault. Doyle had proposed lowering it to 1 percent, which brought an angry response from the business community warning that the threat of additional lawsuits and higher insurance costs could drive some people out of business. The Assembly rejected Doyle's proposal, and the Senate agreed.

-- Mandate that all car owners must have auto insurance. Doyle said he would support such a move. New Hampshire is the only other state that doesn't currently require drivers to carry car insurance.

-- Immediately repeal a state law known as the "qualified economic offer" that has effectively held teacher pay raises in check for 16 years. The Assembly voted to repeal it in a year.

-- Exclude a number of offenses, including kidnapping and human trafficking, from those that would be eligible for early release from prison.

-- Direct a 75-cent monthly fee on phones to be used for 911 emergency centers starting in two years.

-- Allow Ashland and Bayfield counties to levy up to a half-cent sales tax to pay for transportation needs. The Senate would concur with the Assembly in creation of similar arrangements, known as regional transit authorities, for Dane County, the Chippewa Valley, the Fox Cities and Milwaukee County. The Senate would increase the sales tax Milwaukee County could levy to 1 percent but a car rental fee to pay for a commuter rail system in Kenosha, Racine and Milwaukee counties would be set at $16. The Assembly raised it to $18.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

* * * * * * * * * * *

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Senate has passed the state budget on an 17-16 vote with no Republican support.

As changed by the Senate, the budget would have taxes on capital gains go up by nearly half a billion dollars over the next two years. Also, there would be no new tax on oil companies as Governor Jim Doyle had proposed.

One Democratic senator, Jim Sullivan of Wauwatosa, voted against the budget in the Senate tonight. The Assembly passed a different version, so the next step is for a conference committee of lawmakers to work out a compromise.

Senate Democrats defended the budget, saying it protects middle class families during a recession that resulted in a $6.6 billion shortfall.

But Republicans say tax and fee increases in the budget will hurt business and the middle class. GOP Senator Ted Kanavas from Brookfield singled out removing all capital gains exclusions saying that will drive business from the state.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 17, 2009 --- 10:10 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrats who control the state Senate want to eliminate a new tax that could increase the cost of gasoline that was approved earlier by the Assembly.

Senate Democrats also don't want to create a special card for illegal aliens to allow them to legally drive on Wisconsin roads.

The changes from what the Assembly approved Saturday are among dozens Senate Democrats will propose as part of the state budget they plan to pass on Wednesday. Because there are likely to be numerous differences between what the Assembly passed, a special committee of lawmakers will have to meet to reach a compromise.

Senate Democrats met in secret for two days to come up with their plan.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Saturday, June 13, 2009 --- 7:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — With no support from Republicans, the Wisconsin Assembly passed a state budget early Saturday after an all-night session.

The budget plugs a record-high $6.6 billion shortfall over the next two years through tax and fee increases, spending cuts, borrowing and accounting moves.

The Senate expects to take it up next week.

Under the budget, up to 1,400 state workers could lose their jobs. Most state agencies will be cut 6 percent.

It also includes a number of hot-button social issues including issuing driver's cards for illegal immigrants and legalizing domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.

It passed the Assembly 50-48, with two Democrats, Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc and Peggy Krusick of Milwaukee, voting no. Joining 49 Democrats in support was Rep. Jeff Wood, an independent from Bloomer.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, June 12, 2009 --- 7:13 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Assembly has started debate of the $62.2 billion state budget.

Debate began Friday about 5:30 p.m. and was expected to last into the early morning hours Saturday.

Republicans promised more than 100 amendments to try to change the plan that raises more than $2.1 billion in additional taxes and fees and could result in 1,400 state workers being laid off.

But Republicans don't have enough votes in either the Assembly or Senate to change anything without Democratic support.

The Senate is expected to take up the budget next week. If it makes any changes to what the Assembly passes, a special committee of lawmakers will have to work out a compromise.

The budget fixes a projected $6.6 billion shortfall.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, June 11, 2009 --- 4:40 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new $47 million nursing school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison would not be funded in the state budget if Assembly Democrats get their way.

Democrats voted to remove funding for the project from the budget during a closed door meeting Wednesday night. The full Assembly is to take up the budget on Thursday followed by the Senate next week.

The proposed nursing school was not requested by the UW or included in Gov. Jim Doyle's original budget.

Sen. Judy Robson, a former nurse from Beloit, got it put in the budget around midnight on the last day of meetings of the committee that came up with the spending plan.

A Madison Democrat, Rep. Spencer Black, sponsored the motion adopted by Assembly members on Wednesday to remove the item.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 10, 2009 --- 10:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- As gas prices inch toward $3 per gallon, Assembly Democrats have agreed to a proposal that would allow oil companies to add another 4 cents per gallon at the pump.

Democrats on Wednesday agreed to change the state budget proposal to let oil companies pass along a new state tax to customers at the pump. The most companies could add is 4 cents per gallon.

The change was agreed to after numerous concerns were raised about the constitutionality of Gov. Jim Doyle's original oil tax proposal. Under that idea, oil companies would be barred from passing the tax along to consumers.

The sponsor of the new idea, Rep. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, says letting oil companies pass the tax along removes any legal questions.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 10, 2009 --- 10:11 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrats in the state Assembly have voted to restore $5.4 million in cuts to the Justice Department's budget.

Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee sliced the money from the agency's 2009-2011 budget during an all-night session two weeks ago.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen launched a media blitz, labeling the cuts as politically motivated. Van Hollen said the cuts would result in 80 layoffs and hurt public safety.

He urged his employees to lobby lawmakers to restore the money and spoke personally with Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, a Janesville Democrat, about the cuts.

Assembly Democrats decided in closed-door meetings Wednesday to give Van Hollen the money back. Sheridan issued a statement saying Democrats are committed to public safety.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 10, 2009 --- 1:35 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A new analysis gives Wisconsin schools a sense of how much money they will be losing under the proposed state budget.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis released Wednesday shows possible effects of a 3.1 percent cut in aid next year. Actual aid calculations for next year, taking into account property values and other data, have yet to be completed.

The report used this year's data to give a general view of reductions schools should expect. The cuts are part of the state budget scheduled to be debated on Thursday in the Assembly.

Milwaukee schools would only be cut 2 percent, but Madison would be reduced 13 percent. Green Bay would lose 2.5 percent, Beloit 1 percent, Janesville 2 percent and Wausau 2.4 percent.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 10, 2009 --- 9:15 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Two dozen Department of Natural Resources service centers would remain open under action taken late Tuesday night by Assembly Democrats.

Speaker Mike Sheridan's spokeswoman Becky Sweeney says Democrats voted to keep the centers open despite the decision by the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee to close them.

Assembly Democrats will continue meeting Wednesday to discuss changes they want to make to the budget before the full Assembly takes it up on Thursday.

Sweeney says they also voted to remove a change in the budget that outdoor sports organizations argued would make it more difficult to hunt, fish and trap on stewardship land. Sweeney says Democrats also voted to change a budget provision related to property tax exemptions for certain low-income and senior housing.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 9, 2009 --- 10:19 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin state Assembly won't begin state budget debate until Thursday. It was originally scheduled to start Wednesday.

The delay is because Democratic state Rep. Ann Hraychuck of Balsam Lake is out of state Wednesday due to the death of her mother-in-law.

Assembly Democrats met in private on Monday to discuss the budget. Those talks were scheduled to continue on Tuesday before budget debate begins.

Democrats hold a slim 52-46 majority in the Assembly. It takes 50 votes to pass the budget, making every vote critical.

The one independent lawmaker, Jeff Wood of Bloomer, has been meeting in caucus with Democrats.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Tuesday, June 9, 2009 --- 9:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- More than 2,100 Wisconsin business leaders have signed petitions objecting to tax increases and other proposals in the state budget.

The state's largest business lobbying group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce organized the petition drive. The petitions were being delivered on Tuesday to legislative leaders and Gov. Jim Doyle.

The signers listed 14 items they opposed, including higher income taxes for households earning more than $300,000, raising the capital gains tax, changing the state's liability laws and requiring higher minimum car insurance coverage.

James Haney, president of WMC, says the budget will hamper job creation and prolong the recession. The Assembly is scheduled to start debating it on Wednesday.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, June 4, 2009 --- 2:00 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democrats in the Wisconsin state Assembly are raising questions about parts of the state budget their own party leaders crafted.

Assembly Democrats met Thursday to get a briefing on the two-year spending plan that passed the Democratic-controlled Joint Finance Committee early in the morning last Friday.

During the briefing, Democrats raised concerns about parts of the plan that impose a 75-cent fee on phones, change liability laws and mandate insurance companies to cover autism.

There's very little room for dissension among Democrats if the budget is to pass without Republican support. Democrats hold a slim 52 to 46 majority. The one independent lawmaker sat in with Democrats on the budget briefing.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATED Thursday, June 4, 2009 --- 10:28 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The Wisconsin Catholic Conference opposes a change in the proposed state budget that would lower the amount of public money going to families who send their children to private school.

The change would end the requirement that school districts pay certain parents multiple times for the costs of driving each of their children to the same private school.

Under current state law, school districts are required to bus private school students to their schools. If busing a private school student is 1.5 times more than the district average for other students, the district can pay parents to drive the student themselves.

The state says school districts statewide paid $3.5 million to private school parents for transportation in the 2006-2007 school year. The change could save schools about $1 million.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATED Wednesday, June 3, 2009 --- 12:55 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Some Wisconsin drivers may not have to travel far to renew their licenses after all.

Gov. Jim Doyle included a provision in his 2009-2011 budget proposal to close 40 Division of Motor Vehicle service centers across the state to save about $850,000. Most of the centers are open twice a week or less.

But the Joint Finance Committee removed the provision during an all-night session last week.

John Anderson is a spokesman for Sen. Mark Miller, a Monona Democrat who co-chairs the committee.

He says lawmakers were concerned about making people travel farther to other DMV centers to deal with license issues.

The full Legislature still must approve the budget before Doyle can sign it into law.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATE Tuesday, June 2, 2009---11:22 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin Justice Department officials say budget cuts could cripple the agency.

Agency spokesman Kevin St. John says the Legislature's finance committee sliced $13.5 million from the agency's budget during deliberations over the last month.

St. John says that would mean nearly 80 layoffs. He says agency attorneys may have to decide not to pursue appeals.

St. John says evidence backlogs could grow at the state crime labs and the Justice Department may not be able to respond as quickly to calls for help from local police.

Finance committee co-chairman, Rep. Mark Pocan, says every state agency is dealing with budget cuts. The Madison Democrat says he's confident Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen can prioritize.

The budget still needs full legislative approval.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

UPDATE Monday, June 1, 2009---11:12 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- All Wisconsin state employees will be subject to 16 days of forced time off, whether they are totally funded with federal money or are part time only.

Those details and others are contained in a document released by a state agency answering some of the most frequently asked questions about the furloughs ordered by Gov. Jim Doyle to deal with a projected $6.6 billion budget shortfall.

Doyle has the power under the collective bargaining agreement to issue up to eight furlough days a year.

The guidance issued Friday says that the number of furlough hours will be prorated based on the date an employee was hired and whether they are full or part time. Additional guidance will come later related to scheduling the days off and other details.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

UPDATE Posted Friday, May 29, 2009 -- 5:17 pm
By Zac Schultz

Madison: On a 12 to 4, partyline vote the Joint Finance Committee passed the state budget around 5:30 Friday morning.

The budget fixes a $6.6 billion deficit through a combination of tax increases and severe cuts to state government.

Included in the proposal; a hospital tax, an oil franchise tax, a cigarette tax and an increase in the income tax for the highest earners.

The budget cuts state aid to schools and local governments by 2.5% and cuts state agenices by 5% -which will lead to at least a 1,000 layoffs.

State employees will take furloughs and either wage cuts or more layoffs.

Despite all that, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), the Co-Chair of Joint Finance, is pleased with the results. "We protected education and public safety and healthcare. We wanted to protect working families and we did that by making sure taxes won't raise significantly on working families."

Republicans didn't have much say in the process or any power to change the budget and that frustration boiled over Friday night. Rep. Robin Vos (R-Racine) says key provisions in the budget will expand liability and create a bonanza for trial lawyers. So he decided to read out of the phonebook. "Let me just tell you a few of the people who I think are going to be the beneficiaries. AAA AAA Able Attorney Service. A. Steven Porter, Attorney."

When Democrats ruled him out of order he got angry. "I'm talking about something that's really serious. You guys might think it's a joke the way you're screwing business and you're screwing the taxpayers, but the only people that are going to benefit are the people that I'm reading."

Rep. Jennifer Schilling (D-LaCrosse) was among those asked for cooler heads to prevail. "We are grown ups. Were you in community theatre because this is theatre of the absurd right now."

The rest of the Republicans will get to express their outrage when the budget is debated next in the Assembly and the Senate.

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UPDATED Friday, May 29, 2009 --- 6:40 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — After a marathon 12-hour meeting, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee passed a two-year budget plan early this morning.

The budget includes a 75-cent per-pack cigarette tax increase, a new tax on large oil companies, cuts to schools and state government, and other measures to balance a $6.6 billion shortfall.

Republicans argued repeatedly that average citizens and businesses will be hurt under the plan. Democrats say average taxpayers are protected.

There are no general sales or income tax increases. But Governor Jim Doyle does call for furloughing state workers for 16 days and perhaps laying off up to 1,400 due to spending cuts.

The budget now heads to the Democratic-controlled Assembly where it could be taken up as early as June 9.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, May 29, 2009 --- 6:40 a.m.

Early release of felons approved by Wis. committee

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A prison reform plan that would allow some nonviolent felons to get out early and ease monitoring of sex offenders and others has won approval from the Legislature's budget committee.

Gov. Jim Doyle proposed the changes as a way to reduce overcrowding and also save money as the state faces a $6.6 billion projected budget shortfall.

The full Legislature, also controlled by Democrats like the budget committee, must approve the deal before it becomes law.

The changes cleared the Joint Finance Committee on a 12-4 vote taken at about 2:30 a.m. Friday. It was one of the last votes the committee took on the two-year budget.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, May 29, 2009 --- 6:40 a.m.

Tax on big oil companies survives budget committee

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A new tax on big oil companies operating in Wisconsin has survived a vote by the Legislature's budget committee despite concerns over the proposal's legality.

Opponents including gas station and convenience store owners also worry about the tax being passed along by the oil companies to the price at the pump.

Gov. Jim Doyle's proposal would prohibit oil companies from passing the tax along, but even Democrats who backed the idea questioned whether that could be enforced. Republicans say the tax is illegal and the state will have to spend millions fighting it in court.

The $260 million planned to be collected from the tax is key to balancing the state's budget.

Only six of 16 committee members voted to remove the item from the budget late Thursday.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, May 29, 2009 --- 6:40 a.m.

Budget committee OKs driver's card for illegals

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Illegal immigrants in Wisconsin not eligible for driver's licenses instead could get driver's cards that would give them limited rights under action taken by a Democratic-controlled committee.

The cards could be used only to drive. Other rights given to driver's license holders, like using it to board an airplane, would not apply to those with just driver's cards.

To get a card, an immigrant would have to prove they have lived in the state for at least six months, provide proof of identity and not be eligible for a Social Security number.

Gov. Jim Doyle did not propose the cards in his original budget. It was added by the Democratic-controlled budget committee and approved on a partisan vote late Thursday night.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Friday, May 29, 2009 --- 6:40 a.m.

Requiring 2 license plates endorsed by committee

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin cars and trucks will still be required to display two license plates if the Legislature's budget committee gets its way.

The Joint Finance Committee on Thursday night voted to reject Gov. Jim Doyle's proposal to require only one plate and to eliminate license plate stickers.

Doyle had proposed the move to save about $1.3 million over two years.

But law enforcement officials opposed the change, saying having two plates makes it easier to spot the numbers.

The Democratic-controlled committee approved keeping the two plate requirement as it finalized work on the two-year budget before sending it along to the full Legislature, where it can be changed again before going to Doyle.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Thursday, May 28, 2009 --- 5:20 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin's budget-writing committee spent all day Thursday behind closed doors making revisions to the state budget. It's unclear late Thursday afternoon when -- or if -- the committee might start work in the open.

The Joint Finance Committee canceled its meeting Wednesday after delays in drafting motions stretched into the evening. The committee had been set to resume work at noon Thursday.

But the panel spent all day in secret meetings hammering out sweeping motions dealing with state aid to local governments, school funding and transportation.

Committee leaders had hoped to finish their work on the budget by the end of Thursday.

The spending plan then goes to the full Legislature, which must approve it before Gov. Jim Doyle can sign it into law.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 27, 2009 --- 3:45 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Wisconsin legislative leaders have nixed 2 percent pay raises promised to more than 26,000 state employees.

The budget-balancing move approved by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations affects nonunion state employees, elected officials and University of Wisconsin System faculty and staff.

The committee voted to take away raises that were scheduled to take effect next month. Lawmakers approved the raises last year, before the economic downturn blew a massive hole in the state budget.

District attorneys are the only group that will receive raises as scheduled under the action, which is final and doesn't need legislative approval. However, the prosecutors' raises don't go into effect until 2013 because their salaries can't be adjusted during their four-year terms.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 27, 2009 --- 8:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Police would have to track the race of people they pull over starting in 2011 under a new requirement approved by the Legislature's budget committee.

Gov. Jim Doyle proposed the reporting as a way to determine the pervasiveness of racial profiling. Wisconsin has struggled for years with a higher-than-average percentage of minorities in prison.

The Joint Finance Committee approved Tuesday requiring that the data be collected starting in 2011 by all state and local law enforcement agencies. Doyle's original proposal only would have applied to the state's 11 most populated counties.

The state's Office of Justice Assistance would determine the type of data to be collected, under what circumstances it is collected, and the type of analysis to be done.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Wednesday, May 27, 2009 --- 8:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Background-check fees on handgun purchases would increase less than Gov. Jim Doyle wanted, under a proposal approved by the Legislature's budget committee.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 Tuesday to increase the fee from $8 to $13. Doyle had wanted to raise it to $30.

The Democratic-controlled Legislature must approve the $5 fee increase before it takes effect.

Republicans criticized it as unfairly taxing people who are legally buying guns.

The state Justice Department does handgun background checks and the FBI does it on long-rifle buyers.

Last year the state received about 47,000 requests for background checks and approved all but about 600 of them.

The $8 fee has not increased since its inception 18 years ago.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Sunday, May 24, 2009 --- 7:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin's budget committee has approved a measure that would force pharmacies to dispense prescribed contraceptives.

Sen. Judy Robson, a Beloit Democrat and member of the Joint Finance Committee, says some pharmacists refuse to dispense contraceptives despite a doctor's prescription. She says birth control is a basic health care need.

She says the provision means only that a pharmacy must have someone on duty who is willing to dispense contraceptives.

Violators would face up to $2,500 in forfeitures.

The committee on Saturday voted 12-4 to insert the measure in the state budget.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Sunday, May 24, 2009 --- 7:30 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin's budget-writing committee has approved more money to help compensate crime victims.

The Joint Finance Committee voted Saturday to allocate another $811,000 over the next two years to reimburse crime victims for lost wages, medical care and other expenses.

The money comes from surcharges that judges impose when they sentence defendants or place them on probation. Claims have exceeded funding, however, and the program faces an estimated $2.2 million deficit.

The committee also voted to increase the portion of the surcharges devoted to compensating crime victims. The panel also voted to increase the portion of the surcharges devoted to sexual assault services and crime victim assistance to generate another $120,000 divided between the programs.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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UPDATED: Thursday, May 21, 2009 --- 9:00 p.m.

Deep spending cuts and up to 1,400 layoffs are being proposed to fix a growing state budget crisis but increased taxes are not part of Governor Doyle's plans announced tonight.

Schools, public safety and state employees may all suffer under new plans to save the state of Wisconsin some cash.

The budget deficit has grown by 1.6 billion dollars to a total of 7 billion over the next two years.

Doyle says, "None of us enjoys making deep cuts in state government, particularly at a time when people need the services the most. "

After meeting privately for days Democratic co chairs of the budget writing committee stood at Governor Doyle's side as he announced his plans to close the budget gap including a 2 and a half percent cut to education spending.

Doyle says, "I know that this will be very hard on school districts, on teachers, on students, on families but we don't have any other acceptable options."

Funding for state agencies will be cut 5 percent affecting services for the everyday person and aid to local governments will also be cut by 2 and a half percent.

Doyle says, "We have also worked hard to make sure that these cuts will have a minimal effect on police and fire protection."

Because of the cuts Doyle is predicting at least 1-thousand state employees will be laid off.

Doyle is also eliminating a 2 percent raise for all non union employees and says 400 more layoffs may be necessary if union employees don't agree to a pay freeze, so far they have said they will not.

Add to that 16 mandatory days of unpaid time off for state workers and the cuts are deep.

Democratic Senator Mark Miller says, "I think all members of legislature recognize that we've been hit with a financial tsunami."

The plan presented today is just the governor's framework. The plan now needs to go to the joint finance committee who say they are committed to working on this Friday and Saturday in hopes that they'll have a bill on the governor's desk by the end of the month.

Doyle's plan does not include any new taxes and he says he plans a cap on any increases schools can make to protect property taxes.

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UPDATED Thursday, May 21, 2009 --- 5:30 p.m.

Press Release:

MADISON – Governor Doyle, joined by Legislative leaders, today laid out priorities for addressing the state budget deficit, as Wisconsin is facing an additional $1.6 billion budget shortfall in the midst of the national economic crisis.

“My priorities in addressing this historic budget deficit are clear – first, I am not proposing any new taxes,” Governor Doyle said. “Second, we must make deep cuts to state government spending. Third, we must preserve our essential services such as education and public safety.”

Governor Doyle is taking responsible steps under these extraordinary circumstances to address the budget problem. A chart that outlines the framework for addressing the budget deficit follows.

Cuts to Agencies, Shared Revenue and Aids
$ 669.7 Million

Furloughs and Rollbacks of 2% Raise
$ 224.0 Million

Medicaid / Hospital Assessment Re-estimate
$ 165.0 Million

Redeployment of 911 Fee to Support Police and Fire Protection
$ 100 Million

Maintain Current Levels of Tax Credits / Improved Tax Collections / IRC Update Modifications
$ 185.2 Million

Debt Restructuring / Lower Interest Rates
$ 285.0 Million

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UPDATED Thursday, May 21, 2009 --- 2:00 p.m.

NOTE: Governor plans 4:00 p.m. media briefing. We'll air a portion of that briefing on NBC15 News at 4:00 p.m. on-air and on-line.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle is planning an update on the state's budget problems this afternoon, as the head of a 10,000-member union said he wouldn't go along with the governor's call to rescind a scheduled pay raise.

Meanwhile, the Legislature's budget writing committee scheduled meetings for tomorrow and Saturday, drawing criticism from a Republican leader for working on a holiday weekend.

The meetings follow days of private talks between Doyle's aides and legislative leaders trying to broker a deal.

Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon called the meeting times "severely misguided."

The committee's co-chairs issued a joint statement, saying they were trying to act quickly to get a new budget passed before the current one ends.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, May 21, 2009 10:37 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- One state union with roughly 10,000 workers says it won't give up a 2 percent pay raise scheduled to start next month as Gov. Jim Doyle requested.

AFT-Wisconsin President Bryan Kennedy tells the Wisconsin State Journal that workers won't give up the raise as long as the state continues to outsource additional work to contractors. The union represents white-collar state workers.

Doyle is able to rescind a pay raise for 9,500 nonunion state workers to help plug a $1.6 billion budget hole. He wants union workers to volunteer to give up their raise to avoid up to 400 layoffs.

Marty Beil, executive director of the 20,000-member Wisconsin State Employees Union, said earlier this month that the union was unwilling to give up the pay raise.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATED Monday, May 18, 2009 --- 2:00 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- The president of the largest Wisconsin teachers union says cuts in school aid could result in teacher layoffs and pay freezes.

Wisconsin Education Association Council President Mary Bell says tax increases should be considered. She did not say what taxes should be looked at.

Her comments came in a video posted on the union's Web site Monday.

Gov. Jim Doyle said last week that aid to schools could be reduced by as much as 5 percent to help deal with a $6.6 billion budget shortfall.

Bell says cuts could lead to a shortened school year, larger class sizes, a reduction in art, music and vocational programs, pay freezes, teacher layoffs and furloughs and other cuts.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, May 7, 2009 --- 2:50 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle says up to 1,100 state workers could be laid off to deal with an ever-growing state budget shortfall.

The governor also said Thursday that most state workers will have to take 16 unpaid days of leave over the next two years starting in July.

Doyle says 700 jobs could be lost as part of a 5 percent cut to state agencies he is proposing Thursday. He says another 400 could go if the state workers union doesn't agree to give up a 2 percent pay increase scheduled to start in June.

Doyle says the furloughs will apply to all workers except those in 24-hour care facilities, such as prisons and state hospitals.

He is not proposing tax increases but would not promise to veto anything the Legislature might pass.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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UPDATED Thursday, May 7, 2009 --- 2:17 p.m.

From the Office of Governor Doyle:

Governor Jim Doyle today announced more deep cuts in the state budget, as the state is facing a budget shortfall in the midst of the national economic crisis.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau next week will release figures that could show a deficit reaching $1.5 billion.

"What we all know is that reckless behavior on Wall Street - behavior that we've never embraced in Wisconsin - continues its negative effects through our state, our nation and now, the world," Governor Doyle said. "Everyone is paying the price and suffering on some level. Here in Wisconsin we are facing tougher choices than ever about what level of state services we can sustain at a time when people need them most. I am fighting to protect the middle class, education, public safety and health care. These are my priorities. I don't believe that we as a state will ever move forward unless we protect what is really important."

The Governor is taking responsible steps under these extraordinary circumstances to address the problem.

* He will not propose new taxes.

* Governor Doyle's budget already freezes pay and requires state employees to contribute more to retirement and health insurance. Today he said he will roll back 2% pay increases that were to be effective in June.

* All state employees, including those in the Governor's office, will be subject to furloughs of 8 days per year. The Governor cannot be furloughed, so he will return pay for 8 days per year to the state.

* Governor Doyle said deeper cuts to state government spending will reach at least 5%.

* He is also directing all agencies to review all service contracts to reduce personnel costs.

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UPDATED Thursday, May 7, 2009 --- 2:10 p.m.

Gov. Jim Doyle is proposing laying off 400 state employees and ordering all state workers to take 16 days of unpaid leave to deal with Wisconsin's growing budget hole.

The job cuts and furloughs proposed Thursday would begin July 1.

Doyle's budget director, Dave Schmiedicke, unveiled a rough outline of the plan. Details were still being worked out with legislative leaders and others.

Doyle also wants to cut state agency spending and aid to schools and local governments.

The steps are needed because the state's $5 billion budget hole is expected to grow by roughly $1.5 billion due to a dramatic decline in tax revenues through April.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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POSTED Thursday, May 7, 2009 --- 2:00 p.m.

Governor Doyle today announced new cuts in order to deal with a growing budget deficit. The move will cause state employee furloughs and possible layoffs over the next two years.

New state financial numbers show the budget deficit is now at $6.5 billion for two years, that's $1.5 billion worse over next 2 years than was originally projected.

The governor says the worsening economy and less tax revenue for April contributed to the new grim figures.

To deal with the growing deficit, Doyle announced several proposals.

Non-union state employees who were expecting a 2% pay increase in June will no longer be seeing that increase. Governor Doyle projects that move will save $30 million per year.

Beginning in July, all state employees must take 16 days of furloughs over the next two years. That will save about $120 million per year.

State agencies that were already forced to cut 1% of their budgets may now be forced to cut up to 5% of their budgets, which will likely lead to as many as 700 layoffs in the next two years. That could save the state about $36 million.

If the state employees union does not agree to re-open contracts and take 2% wage cuts, an additional 400 state employees may be laid off in the next two years.

There will also be cuts to school aid for public education, and shared revenue for municipalities - how much will be cut in these two categories is unknown at this point.

The joint finance committee has been working on the state budget since February. They moved this week to take a break in order to wait and analyze these new numbers.

Now, the governor will submit a partial new budget to the committee, this will likely delay the finalization of the budget. The fiscal year ends in June.

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