The budget repair bill is now in the hands of the Legislature. Although it is getting a lot more attention than most bills, it is still just a bill working its way through the process. In our state, budget bills are introduced by the Governor, reviewed by the Joint Finance Committee and then brought before the State Assembly and State Senate.
Legislators can debate budget bills in committee and on the floor of their respective houses and offer amendments. Most importantly they have the responsibility to vote, much like citizens do at the ballot box during elections.
The public offered suggestions and we made changes to the bill because of their participation in the public process. I also applaud Assembly Democrats for publicly debating the budget repair bill I introduced two weeks ago.
In contrast, their counterparts in the Senate fled the state in an effort to prevent democracy from working, stifle debate, and ultimately try and negate the results of the election that took place last November.
The reason Senate Democrats claimed they left the state was because citizens needed more time to debate the issue. This is ironic because 12 of the 14 missing Senate Democrats passed Governor Doyle’s budget repair bill, which raised taxes by a billion dollars, within 24 hours of introduction and without a public hearing in February 2009. Senate Republicans vehemently disagreed with the bill and the process Democrats used to ram it through; however they stayed in Wisconsin, debated the legislation and made the choice to participate in democracy by casting their vote in opposition.
The Legislation has been public for two weeks and the Joint Finance Committee listened to more than 17 hours of public testimony on the budget repair bill. Yet Senate Democrats still remain out of state endlessly holding media interviews.
In one interview Senator Larson said, “it’s almost like a reality TV show.”
I have a message for Senator Larson: No it isn’t. This isn’t for entertainment, this is real.
We have a deficit for the remainder of this fiscal year and a $3.6 billion deficit for the next budget that starts on July 1. Our budget repair bill allows us to save $300 million from state government workers and gives local units of government the tools to save $1.44 billion in the next state budget. In addition, it gives local governments the tools to save even more in order to protect jobs and vital services. To achieve these savings, we need to pass our repair bill. That’s why the Senate Democrats need to come home.
I go to work every day to defend the plan I laid out to make the tough decisions needed to balance Wisconsin’s budget.
It’s clear Senate Democrats disagree with the bill I put forward. I understand and respect that. I’ll always be willing to cooperate and communicate with the Democrats, but that has to happen at the State Capital in Madison.