Lawmakers plan to tackle state budget starting next week - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers plan to tackle state budget starting next week

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by Meg Bonacorsi

WISCONSIN (WAOW) -- With a record $5.4 billion dollar budget shortfall, state legislators admit they're going to have their hands full in 2009.

But it isn't just the budget structure that will be changing.

For the first time in 20 years the Democrats have control of both the legislature and the Governor's office.

Democrat Jim Holperin, the Senator-elect from Eagle River, says, "There is a lot of responsibility that comes with that and I think the party and the Democrats in the legislature need to be reminded not to go too far in the other direction."

And that's exactly what some Republicans are worried about.

Representative Scott Suder of Abbotsford says, "I think the Democrats are going to overreach.  I think they're going to have the liberal part of their caucus take over."

But Holperin is hoping that doesn't happen, "It will be the Democrats' responsibility and obligation to make sure that budget is fair, to make sure that there's a mixture of program cuts and revenue that we can rely on in to the future."

But Republicans don't want that revenue to come in the form of tax hikes.

Representative Suder says, "Many of us certainly on the Republican side are going to fight tax increases whether it be sales tax increase or an income tax increase."

However there is one budget solution both parties can agree on.

Suder says, "There's a lot of fat in state government still and I do think that we can eliminate those programs that don't work, streamline those that need to be streamlined and certainly not create new programs."

Holperin agrees, "There are a lot of programs that people are depending on in the state that are simply not going to be available to the extent that they have been because of those budget circumstances."

When it comes to cuts, Holperin says the five areas the Democrats will likely take a close look at include school aid, Medicaid, the UW and prison systems and state money for local governments.

Online Reporter: Meg Bonacorsi

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