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Rep. Brett Davis: State budget process continues
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As many of you are aware, the state's biennial budget process is well under way. The state budget is the single largest, and one of the most important, pieces of legislation that is taken up by the state legislature each session. Over the past several weeks I have heard from hundreds of constituents all across the district who have expressed their opinions and concerns about various provisions of the governor's budget proposal. I agree with most of them and believe some changes need to occur to the budget to ensure it reflects fiscal policies that will promote economic growth, reduce the tax burden and improve our business climate and create jobs.

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has completed its tour of public hearings around the state, and held its first executive session Thursday. This is the first of many in which the committee will review and adjust Governor Doyle's state budget proposal. The committee will continue to meet and is expected to wrap up its work during the last week of May 2009. When the committee's changes are complete, the amended budget will be submitted to both houses of the state legislature for an up or down vote.

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has identified about 80 non-fiscal, policy items in the proposed state budget. These are provisions are "primarily of a non-fiscal nature and not closely related to the state's fiscal programs for the next biennium," as stated by the LFB. The co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) have announced they plan on removing 45 of these items from the budget.

While this is a good start, it still leaves major policy provisions not related to the state's finances. Among these remaining policy items are increases in minimum rates for automobile insurance, changes in prevailing wage thresholds, the repeal of the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) for public teachers' salaries, and the statewide smoking ban. I believe strongly that these policy items that should be debated as separate, individual bills and go through the normal legislative process. Unfortunately, an initial motion failed on a 3-12 vote Thursday to remove the remaining non-fiscal policy items from the budget.

In addition, JFC also took action on a motion that would have expanded base budget reviews and implemented zero-based budgeting; instead of eliminate them as the governor's budget is proposing. The language for the motion was borrowed from the Truth in Budgeting Act I have authored with Rep. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa. The idea of this provision is to change the way we budget in Wisconsin, in an effort to end the irresponsible accounting gimmicks of the past that have gotten our state into such a large deficit. Although this motion eventually was defeated on a partisan 3-12 vote, I will keep pushing the idea of budget reform, because I believe it is central to our state's road to fiscal recovery.

I hope you found this information interesting, as I plan to continue writing regular updates on the progress of the state budget process. The language of the state budget document that is ultimately passed will affect every single family and taxpayer in our state. In the coming weeks, I am hopeful changes will be made to reign in the original proposed increases in state spending, taxes, and debt that will lead to a negative impact on economic growth.

I want to hear from you, so please feel welcome to express your thoughts or let me know if I can be helpful to you in any way by calling 888-534-0080, e-mailing me at or by writing or stopping by 11 West, State Capitol, Madison, WI 53708.

- Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, serves the 80th Assembly District, which includes all of Green County and parts of Lafayette, Rock and Dane counties.