MADISON (AP) - Only a dozen out of 58 non-fiscal policy items identified in Gov. Scott Walker's budget are being removed by Republicans in charge of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.
The proposals allowed to remain over Democratic objections Thursday include Walker's plan to create private school vouchers for special needs students and to end a residency requirement statewide for local government workers.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau on Wednesday identified the 58 items in Walker's two-year budget that are primarily policy and not related to the budget. The committee's Republican co-chairs responded with their own memo saying they were removing 12 items that should be introduced separately. They did not explain why the other 46 items were allowed to remain.
It is generally more difficult to pass something as separate legislation than when it's part of the massive budget, which the Legislature considers all at once. Democrats argue all items identified as policy by the Fiscal Bureau should be removed.
"These provisions have no place in the state budget and deserve to be debated openly through the normal legislative process," said budget committee member Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse.
Injecting policy items into the budget is a longtime practice, done by both Republican and Democratic governors.
Policy items not removed from Walker's budget include freeing rent-to-own businesses from Wisconsin's consumer protection law; requiring DNA collection upon arrest on suspicion of a felony and a host of misdemeanors; banning wolf hunting at night; and creating a new statewide board to oversee charter schools.
The dozen items removed by Republicans are largely not contentious. One item taken out would have changed state law to remove a prohibition on foreign ownership of farmland larger than 640 acres.
The Joint Finance Committee met for the first time Thursday to begin taking votes on changes to Walker's budget. Democrats used the meeting to call for all policy items to be removed, but they have only four of 16 seats on the panel, making it nearly impossible for them to get anything passed.
Republican committee co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling said the committee would not be voting on removing any other additional policy items beyond those already taken out. She said the policy items weren't on the day's agenda but promised Democrats would get a chance to argue against the items as they come up during the next few weeks of deliberations.
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