Despite promises of doing things differently than their Democratic predecessors, Legislative Republicans upheld what are becoming some disturbing traditions in passing the biennial budget. Items added without debate or public hearing by the Joint Finance Committee, non-fiscal items added to the budget by the Legislature, and another vote by the Assembly in the wee hours of the morning.
Among the items "slipped in" without debate: A measure that would have expanded the School Choice voucher program to the Green Bay School District and a provision that would bring back bail bondsmen to Wisconsin. I know Green Bay school officials would have wanted to have some input into the decision process on the bill that affects them--since it would have cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funding. And wouldn't you have enjoyed a public hearing with Dog the Bounty Hunter making empassioned pleas to allow others in his field to do business in Wisconsin?
The bounty hunter bill was one example of non-fiscal items in the budget. You can add a provision that changes charter rules for credit unions and banks which could open the door to the purchase of credit union assests by banks. Not sure what that has to do with state spending. No public hearing on that one either. Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Robin Vos had promised no non-budgetary items would be in the budget--since that is the way the Democrats enjoyed ramming through items like schools must teach the history of labor unions. I guess that promise won't be upheld.
And finally, after criticizing Democrats for their "dark of the night" budget votes in the past that were "hiding credit card spending and huge tax increases" the Assembly this year voted on the budget at 3:00 am. The only difference from the last couple of budget votes was there wasn't an unshaven Tom Nelson at his desk refusing to leave or shower until there was a new budget in place. The Senate didn't do much better--their vote was after 10:30 pm. Conveniently, both votes come after late TV newscasts and newspaper deadlines--limiting the public exposure of the actions taken.
I guess the old adage still holds true in Madison: The more things change, the more they stay the same.