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Wisconsin budget heads for dramatic Senate vote

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GOP needs 17 votes but could come up short. Gov. Walker is currently touring Asia 

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin budget was headed for a climactic vote in the state Senate, where it remained unclear whether Republicans who are in the majority could cobble together enough support to pass the two months-late spending plan on Friday.

Republicans need 17 votes out of their 20 senators to approve the $76 billion budget that was due on July 1 but that has been hung up among GOP in-fighting. Current spending continues during the impasse as Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker work behind the scenes to forge a compromise.

The Assembly passed the budget late Wednesday night and Republican Speaker Robin Vos pledged he would not return to vote again if the Senate made any changes. That put the pressure on Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald to secure the needed votes without making any changes. If the Senate changes the budget, the Assembly would have to vote again but that may not happen until October.

The massive bill dictating spending for K-12 schools, Medicaid, the University of Wisconsin and the rest of state government must pass both the Senate and Assembly in identical form before it can go to Walker for his signature.

Three conservative Republican senators — Chris Kapenga, Duey Stroebel and Steve Nass — issued a list of demands on Wednesday to get their vote for the budget. Those demands were unlikely to be met, leaving Republicans with the bare minimum 17 votes needed.

But one other Republican, Sen. David Craig, of Big Bend, is also against it. That leaves the Senate one vote short.

The vote could be delayed to Saturday or beyond if Republicans can’t convince one of the holdouts to vote for it. Democrats are united in opposition.

Republicans have touted the budget as full of good news, pointing to a nearly 6 percent increase in funding for K-12 schools, a tuition freeze at UW campuses and a small property tax cut.

Democrats have assailed the budget as being a missed opportunity that primarily benefits the wealthy since it cut income taxes primarily paid by high earners and did not reduce income taxes across the board or for poor working families as Walker called for. They’ve also criticized it for not coming up with a long-term funding solution for roads projects and instead further delaying work around the state and borrowing another $400 million.

Walker said Wednesday that the budget fulfills his goals of increasing funding for K-12 schools without increasing property taxes. Once the budget passes, it will head to Walker for his vetoes and signature, which could come as soon as next week.

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