Published November 1, 2007 | November 2007 issue
Lawmakers in Wisconsin have been trying to pass a biennium budget since the Legislature first went into session last January. Though there was agreement on aid to public schools and local governments—half of the state budget—major proposals by both parties have become sticking points, with neither side particularly interested in giving in through mid-October.
Democrats offered the first olive branch by backing off a $15 billion proposal to implement a single-payer universal health care system for state residents. But the party is insisting on a 77-cent per pack tax increase on cigarettes, now seen as particularly important for raising money for existing health care programs, especially for the uninsured. Other significant proposals in the negotiating process include a new tax on oil companies, as well as a tax on hospitals to attract more federal Medicaid funding.
Unlike most states that have to shut down if a budget is not passed within a certain period, Wisconsin doesn't have any such deadline, because state law allows the state to simply continue spending at pre-July levels of the previous budget.
—Ronald A. Wirtz