State budget

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, left, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, right, discuss ongoing state budget deliberations during a press conference held by the Republican legislative leaders in the Senate parlor last week.

JOHN HART -- State Journal

The state Assembly was poised to take up the state budget Wednesday and ship the $73.3 billion spending plan to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

The Republican-controlled chamber was set to convene just before noon. Debate was expected to last for nearly 12 hours, with a final vote to come before midnight.

The Senate passed the two-year budget late Tuesday evening after inserting provisions into the document that would repeal the prevailing wage law for local government projects. The law requires the state and local governments to pay construction workers a minimum salary on public projects and has irked conservative lawmakers who feel it allows the government to artificially inflate salaries.

A group of senators demanded the prevailing wage law be scaled back before a vote. But Republican leaders in both the Senate and Assembly said they lacked the votes for a full repeal. Work on the budget came to a standstill at the end of May as Republicans tried to work out a compromise on a repeal, reduce the $1.3 billion Walker wanted to borrow for road projects and decide whether to commit public dollars to a new $500 million Milwaukee Bucks arena.

Republican leaders last week announced they had reached a deal to enact a partial prevailing wage repeal, reduce road borrowing to $850 million and advance a separate bill committing $250 million in tax dollars to the arena. That broke the logjam.

With their handful of members pushing for prevailing wage changes now aligned with them, Senate Republicans added the repeal on Tuesday, despite complaints from minority Democrats that the move would lower wages and hurt the middle class.

The chamber then passed the budget 18-15. All the Democrats as well as Republican Sen. Rob Cowles of Allouez voted against the document. Cowles said he objected to the amount of non-fiscal policy in the plan.

Now the Assembly is the last stop before the budget can go back to Walker, who can use his powerful veto pen to rewrite substantial portions of the document to his liking before he signs it into law. The governor plans to launch his 2016 presidential campaign on Monday but he hasn't said if he'll finish the budget before the announcement. His spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to an email message Wednesday morning.

The state is a week into the new fiscal year. Unlike other states where the government shuts down without a new budget, Wisconsin's agencies continue at current funding levels.

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