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Senate narrowly passes budget fix; Harsdorf votes no

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All 15 Senate Republicans and one Democrat voted against the budget repair deal, but the measure still passed -- by one vote -- and now goes onto the Assembly.

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Today (Wednesday), the Assembly is expected to take up the measure, which aims at fixing the state's projected $527 million budget deficit.

"This budget-repair bill delays making the tough choices and uses the credit card," said Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls.

"It is a budget bill that simply gets us through the next election," she added.

Harsdorf says that the increased borrowing in the bill will hurt the state's ailing bond rating and cost the state more down the road.

"It basically delays the tough choices we have to make," Harsdorf said.

Even with the fix the state will see a structural deficit of $1.7 billion going into the 2010-11 biennial budget, according to Bob Lang, director of the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

"The budget amendment bill passed in the Senate yesterday does not cause that," said Lang.

"The primary reason for the $1.7 billion deficit is a shortfall in our revenues," he added.

The reason for the shortfall, according to Lang, is a slowing national economy which means fewer taxes being collected.

The budget repair deal was worked out by leaders from the Senate, Assembly and Gov. Jim Doyle's office over the pass several weeks.

"Today we maintained important investments in our state economy, but also told the state to tighten up the belt," said Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, Senate majority leader.

"The additional $69 million in cuts to state programs on top of the $200 million in cuts passed as part of the state budget last year will mean state government will have to be as efficient as possible," he added.

In the Assembly, Rep. Kitty Rhoades, R-Hudson, says she will vote for the bill because the state is out of choices.

"It protects taxpayers, roads, and schools," Rhoades said.

"It is equal to a second-year spending freeze, which is what families would do," she added.

Rhoades says she is not being swayed by what her GOP colleagues did in the Senate because as the minority party in that house the GOP has a different role and in the Assembly the GOP is the majority.

"They are in the minority over there which is a different role politically," she said. "We have to actually have solutions."

Passage of the measure in the Assembly is not guaranteed by either party.

One unnamed legislative aid said both Republican and Democratic leaders are still counting to see if they have the votes.

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