State Government and Political Roundup: Republicans getting closer to a new budget deal
MADISON - Governor Scott Walker and the Republican leaders of both houses are getting close to a major state budget deal that includes more tax cuts, an expansion of private school choice statewide, and a rejection of new federal Medicaid funds.
Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau told the AP during the weekend they're quote, "actually pretty close" to something. The Republican Walker agreed, saying quote, "I think we're getting there." We'll find out more tomorrow, when the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee meets - possibly to put the finishing touches on a two-year budget package that the full Legislature would consider. What we don't know is whether the leadership's package addresses the concerns of 11 state Assembly Republicans who say they want a larger tax cut, a further reduction in borrowing for roads and state buildings, and rejecting the idea of taking DNA from alleged felons who are arrested but not convicted. Fitzgerald said the GOP leadership is considering a tax cut of at least $500-million. Walker's original budget package in February called for a $343-million income tax cut.
Wisconsin Dells resort owners say they'd be hurting for summer help if the federal immigration bill isn't changed. Cultural exchange group leader Michael McCarry tells the Madison Capital Times the bill would virtually wipe out the Summer Work Travel Program - which brings in foreign college students for summer jobs. The proposed regulations are part of a crackdown on human trafficking. Shaun Tofson of the Wilderness Resort at Wisconsin Dells says it's "appalling" to classify the Summer Work Program as human trafficking. Tofson said if it wasn't for students, parts of her company would have to close. That's because there are not enough workers in the local area - and others wouldn't drive very long each day for jobs that pay nine-dollars-per-hour. Stacie Tollaksen of the sponsorship firm Intrax says about two-thousand students work in Wisconsin for 3-to-4 months each year. Under the bill, sponsors would have to pay the 15-hundred-dollars in fees they now pay themselves - and those sponsors would also pay an extra 500-per-worker to boost up security at the Mexican border. The Summer Work Travel Program has been criticized in some states as being a source of cheap labor. Tollaksen says the State Department has taken steps to make sure the youngsters also get to enjoy cultural and community programs.
Wisconsin's former "deer czar" returns to the Badger State on Saturday to hear what the DNR's doing about his 62 ideas to improve deer hunting. James Kroll is expected to attend an all-day meeting at UW-Stevens Point. It's designed to give folks an update on the state's implementation of his proposals. The DNR has four "action teams" that have been working since March to determine the best way to put Kroll's ideas into place. They've been focusing on general areas of deer seasons - hunting rules - chronic wasting disease and other deer health issues - and the new "D-MAP" deer management assistance program, in which the state and local groups work together to managing deer in specific lands. The action teams are expected to finish their work in late July. DNR staffers will then make proposals based on what the teams recommend.