MADISON - After spending more than ten hours behind closed-doors, Republicans finally released their official budget agreements early Wednesday morning.
"Moving into the next biennium, we anticipate this budget will be fully balanced and will remain in tact, as far as both rainy day and balance, so we're in really good shape and met the goals we had going into this budget as well," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R- Juneau).
When it comes to education, the plan expands school vouchers statewide, with a cap of 500 students the first year and 1,000 the second year. Under the proposal, public schools would see increase spending by $150 per student in each of the next two years. The governor had no increase in his original proposal.
But Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee wanted more time to review the proposals, asking to table a vote until the later in the morning. That request was denied. Democrats say voucher schools are unaccountable, blasting the proposal.
"Overnight we've super-sized voucher schools in this state, that is vouchers on steroids, that as we look at this, what we originally when we had the hearings across the state, public hearings, it was nine school districts," said State Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.
The Republican plan also includes nearly $700 million in income tax cuts over the next two years. It received mixed reviews.
"On an even basis, we're prioritizing between giving money back to taxpayers and an equal amount to our public education system," said State Rep. John Nygren, R-Joint Finance co-chair.
"We're going to steal money that we stole from public schools from the last biennium, and the majority party is going to put it into tax breaks, that favor rich people," said State Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.
Despite the lengthy debate already, the budget still needs to head to the Republican-controlled Legislature for final approval.
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