MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Bounty hunters will not be allowed in Wisconsin and an investigative journalism center will continue to operate on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus with vetoes Gov. Scott Walker made to the state budget.
Walker said he vetoed the two provisions added to the budget by Republican lawmakers before it passed the Legislature earlier this month.
Walker made 57 changes to the budget in all before signing the budget Sunday afternoon in Pleasant Prairie. Most deal with technical issues in the $70 billion, two-year spending plan.
Portions of the budget that were his major priorities - including a $650 million income tax cut, rejection of federal Medicaid expansion and expanding private school vouchers statewide - will remain intact.
The two most significant vetoes, on bounty hunters and the investigative journalism center, came on items the Republican-controlled budget committee added in its final motion in the middle of the night. This is the second time Walker has vetoed the creation of a bounty hunter, or bail bondsman, program.
"It's just a policy I wasn't thrilled with," Walker said.
Bail bondsmen have not been allowed in Wisconsin since 1979, and Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and police all opposed bringing them back.
Van Hollen praised Walker for vetoing the bounty hunter program. Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson said the move eliminated "the most obvious example of corruption in this budget," although he found many other faults with the spending plan.
Walker also vetoed a provision that would have kicked the independent Center for Investigative Journalism off of the UW-Madison campus and barred it from working with university professors. Walker said the center's relationship with UW-Madison is an issue for the UW System Board of Regents to take up.
Numerous other parts of the budget that lawmakers, advocacy groups, lobbyists and others had asked Walker to veto remain untouched.
Enrollment caps for new private school vouchers will remain at 500 students next year and 1,000 the next, Walker said. The governor and Republican legislative leaders previously agreed to the limits, but opponents of voucher expansion had worried Walker would eliminate the caps with his expansive veto powers.
In Wisconsin, the governor can strike individual words within a sentence to change its meaning, as well as remove individual digits to create new numbers or delete entire sentences from paragraphs. A constitutional amendment passed in 2008 prohibited governors from creating a new sentence from two or more sentences.
Walker vetoed one budget amendment that would have allowed existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine to accept students who would be eligible for statewide expansion without having them count toward the cap. The amendment also raised a question about whether satellite schools could open anywhere in the state and take as many students as they wished.
Walker said his veto was meant to "make it more certain our deal remained intact" and show "my word was good."
Walker also left alone a new income tax deduction the Legislature added for families of private school students.
Other parts of the budget that Walker did not veto, despite requests for changes:
- DNA: The budget limits analysis of DNA from people who have been arrested. It will allow police to collect DNA from anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony, but the material won't be analyzed until after a court determines there is probable cause of the person's guilt. Anyone convicted of a crime, including misdemeanors, would have to provide their DNA. The current law requires DNA samples only from convicted felons and sex offenders.
- Stewardship: The budget will scale back the state land preservation program further than Walker originally proposed.
- Junk food: A provision preventing local governments from limiting food and beverage serving sizes will remain, despite calls from health care groups for a veto. Restaurant and grocers backed that provision.
- State treasurer: The budget will eliminate nearly all the duties of the state treasurer's office, including its oversight of unclaimed property. A constitutional amendment doing away with the office, which would have to be approved by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions as well as by a vote of the people, is being circulated.
- Residency: Public workers may live anywhere they wish, except for public safety workers, who must reside within 15 miles of the local government where they serve. Walker had originally proposed letting public safety workers live wherever they wish.
- Skyward: A provision designed to keep Stevens Point-based Skyward in the state by allowing for a multi-vendor contract to operate student information systems will remain. Walker wanted to give one company the contract for the whole state, but the Legislature caved to pressure from Skyward,
which lost the original bid to a Minnesota company and threatened to leave the state and take its roughly 750 jobs with it.
- Kringle: The kringle will be Wisconsin's official state pastry. Three Republicans and three Democrats wrote to Walker, asking him to leave that in the budget because it "would put Racine and southeast Wisconsin on the culinary map." "Kringle for everyone," the governor joked.
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