Highlights of state budget passed by Assembly

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Associated Press

Posted on June 21, 2013 at 7:05 AM

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled Assembly on a 55-42 vote now heads to the state Senate for an expected vote on Thursday. If it passes there in identical form, it then heads to Gov. Scott Walker who can sign it, veto all of it, or veto any individual items he opposes. The Legislature has the option to override Walker's vetoes.

Here are some highlights of what's in the budget:

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INCOME TAX CUT

Income taxes would be cut by about $650 million over the next two years, rates in all brackets would be cut, and the number of brackets would shrink from five to four. The lowest rate would drop from 4.6 percent to 4.4 percent while the top rate would go from 7.75 percent to 7.65 percent. The third and fourth brackets would be compressed, meaning anyone who earns between $28,650 and $315,460 would receive a 6.27 percent tax cut.

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SCHOOL VOUCHERS

The private school voucher program, currently offered only in Racine and Milwaukee, would extend statewide. Vouchers allow public school students to attend private and religious schools using a taxpayer-funded subsidy.

Enrollment outside of Milwaukee and Racine would be capped at just 500 students next school year and 1,000 for every year after that. With 422 new school districts joining the program, on average fewer than three students in each could join the program.

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PUBLIC SCHOOL FUNDING

Spending in public schools would increase $150 per pupil in each of the next two years. Walker had proposed no increase, and Democrats called for $275 per student. The increase comes after an $800 million cut in per-pupil spending in Walker's last budget. State aid to schools would increase by about 1 percent.

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MEDICAID

Wisconsin would reject a federally funded expansion of Medicaid, as Walker wanted, despite calls from numerous health care advocacy groups to take the money and cover about 85,000 more adults in the program.

Had Walker accepted the federally funded expansion, people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 for a single person, would have been covered under the state's BadgerCare Medicaid program. The budget would only cover adults up to 100 percent of poverty, or about $11,500 a year.

Currently, BadgerCare covers people earning up to 200 percent of the poverty level, or $22,980, but there is a cap on enrollment for single adults. The budget would lift that cap for those at or below poverty level.

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UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN

Tuition would be frozen for the next two years at the University of Wisconsin System, a move agreed after the system reported it had about $650 million in reserves at the end of the last fiscal year. The budget would also eliminate a proposed spending increase of $181 million for the UW System and cut it an additional $2.5 million. That comes on top of a $315 million cut that the UW System sustained in the previous two-year budget.

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PUBLIC LAND SALE

An array of state properties, including prisons, university dormitories, power plants and highways, could be sold to private buyers without going through a public bidding process. However no sale could go through without approval of the Joint Finance Committee, and state-owned property funded with at least 50 percent federal funds or gifts or grants could not be sold.

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DNA COLLECTION

Anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony or a host of sex-related misdemeanors would be required to submit their DNA to law enforcement. Anyone convicted of any crime would also have to provide their DNA. That is an expansion from current law, which requires DNA samples only from convicted felons and sex offenders. An estimated 68,000 additional DNA samples would be collected a year under the change.

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BOUNTY HUNTERS

Bail bondsmen would be allowed to operate in Dane, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Racine and Waukesha counties. In five years they would be allowed to operate across the state. The five pilot counties would be required to track the bondsmen's activities and submit a report to the state courts director, who would have to provide a summary report to the Legislature no later than six months before the statewide expansion.

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RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT

Public safety workers in Wisconsin couldn't be required to live any closer than within 15 miles of the city or county where they serve, a change that would most dramatically affect Milwaukee. All city and school district employees must live in Milwaukee, and similar but generally less restrictive requirements are in place in more than 100 other Wisconsin cities. It wouldn't apply to volunteers.

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UNEMPLOYED

Unemployed people would have to conduct four work searches a week instead of the current two under one of several changes affecting unemployment benefits.

Benefits paid to unemployed people in Wisconsin would also be more difficult to receive, thereby saving the state $37 million over the next two years. Changes include new, tougher regarding voluntary termination of work, misconduct and substantial fault, and searching for work.

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FOOD STAMPS

Able-bodied adults on Wisconsin's food stamps program would have to spend at least 20 hours a week working or getting trained for a job. Those who don't meet the work requirement would be limited to three months of benefits over three years. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that half of the childless, able-bodied adults on the program between the ages of 18 and 50 who would be subject to the work requirement would not meet it. That is 31,300 out of 62,700.

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INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism would have to move its headquarters off the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and UW employees would be barred from working at the nonpartisan center. The school currently provides two offices, utilities and Internet access, and in exchange the center hires some of its students as paid interns and provides academic and journalism support. Republicans say the center shouldn't rely on state facilities.

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