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Thursday, April 14, 2011

 3:50 PM 

Dems block rainy day fund measure

Democrats blocked the third reading of a constitutional amendment to set up spending restraints and push state revenues into a rainy day fund if tax collections exceed certain benchmarks.

The objection of the third reading delays a vote on the bill until the next session after the next scheduled floor day. The next scheduled floor day for the Assembly is May 10.

This is the first consideration of the constitutional amendment. To become law, it would need to also pass in the next legislative session and be approved by voters.

The measure would require state tax collections in excess of 6.5 percent of state wide personal incomes to be deposited into it. Any balance over a set maximum would have to be returned to taxpayers, and the fund could only be tapped in a recession or fiscal emergency with approval from two-thirds of the state Legislature.

Rep. Travis Tranel, the Cuba City Republican who authored the legislation, said the amendment was a common sense proposal and sets aside money when times are good so the state has a cushion in difficult fiscal times.

Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, said the legislation was the brainchild of former Rep. Mark Gottlieb, who left the Assembly to serve as Gov. Scott Walker's transportation secretary. Fitzgerald said if this type of legislation was enacted in the 1980s it would have resulted in $9 billion less in spending.

The public was "clamoring for" this type of fiscal restraint, Fitzgerald said.

"I've been talking to people. They don't want any more government spending. They don't want to pay more taxes," he said.

The Republicans turned aside a half dozen Dem amendments, including proposals access the funds with a simple majority vote, and suspending the mandatory deposit into the fund in years when the state is making cuts to shared revenue or education funding.

Rep. Tony Staskunas, the West Allis Dem who authored the amendments, said there are flaws in the proposal and the bill has moved through the process at "greased lightning speed." He said it's still early in the current legislative session and urged that it go back to the committee stage for more work. His motion was defeated.


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