2015-2017 State Budget Summary

Governor Scott Walker signed the $73 billion-plus state budget on Sunday, July 12, just days after the legislature passed the budget bill and hours before his presidential election announcement. Before signing the budget, the governor issued 104 vetoes – double the number of vetoes he issued in previous budgets.

Throughout the budget process, which began in early 2015, legislators wrestled with numerous controversial and headline-grabbing issues ranging from prevailing wage reform, teacher licensing, the University of Wisconsin system cut and a proposed new Bucks arena. Furthermore, the budget process stalled at the end, while members faced tough fiscal decisions pertaining to funding for transportation, prevailing wage reform and financing for the Bucks arena, which was ultimately removed from the budget and is being taken up as separate legislation.

The budget floor sessions in both the Senate and the Assembly did not go as late as previous years, due to predetermined for the debate. The budget vote in the Assembly was closer than expected, with 11 Republicans voting with the Democrats against the budget. Many of those Republicans who voted against the budget come from purple districts heading into 2016 elections, signaling desire to appeal to independent voters. The Senate passed the spending plan almost on party lines, 18 – 15, with Republican Senator Robert Cowles voting against it.

One of the most covered items vetoed by the governor was a provision that would have allowed payday lenders to offer additional financial services, including selling insurance, annuities and providing financial advice. The governor also changed the new measure that would have required food stamp applicants to take and pass drug tests by removing the requirement that would limit the tests to those who fall under reasonable suspicion. Additionally, the governor used the veto pen to make changes to Family Care and IRIS provisions.

The Hamilton Consulting budget summary has been updated to reflect any items that were modified in the governor’s veto message.