The WI State Assembly has passed the state budget today on a 55-42 vote.
Passage of the budget hit a snag yesterday requiring Republicans to negotiate a series of last-minute changes to help smooth passage of the bill. One of those changes delays until July 1, 2014 a budget provision limiting challenges to high-capacity wells in Wisconsin.
The measure now heads to the Wisconsin State Senate.
On Tuesday the WI State Assembly adjourned after a fifteen minute budget debate in order to work on an amendment designed to gain the support of moderate Republicans. Debate on the state budget will resume today.
Passage of the budget in the Assembly, where Republicans hold a 60-39 majority, is certain. However, moderate Republicans in the Senate have threatened not to vote for the measure unless concessions are made relative to Medicaid spending and a statewide school voucher proposal. Republicans have a narrow 18-15 edge in the Senate which means they can afford to have one member vote against the budget but not two. Democrats are uniformly opposed to it.
One change of interest to the food manufacturing industry announced by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) would delay a budget provision limiting challenges to high-capacity wells in Wisconsin. Food processors in WI attempt to be good environmental stewards because their livelihoods are directly dependent on maintaining productive water resources. They have implemented new technologies that use water more efficiently. This includes innovations in water application, recovery and recycling. MWFPA believes regulations and permit conditions must be based on sound science, achievable goals and must consider the long term financial impact on all interested parties.
The Senate is expected to take up the $70 billion budget on Thursday.
The Republican controlled WI State Assembly is set to begin debate on $70 billion two-year budget bill this morning.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has indicated that Assembly would debate the measure for six and a half hours today and six hours tomorrow. A final vote in the Assembly is expected tomorrow. The Senate is expected to take up the budget on Thursday.
The measure contains a number of major tax reform provisions, including the elimination of the Food Processing Plant and Warehouse Investment Credit. The bill also expands a current law provision that exempts solar and wind energy systems from the property tax to include biogas energy systems.
In addition, language blocking anyone from challenging high-capacity well applications and permits by arguing the WI Department of Natural Resources didn't consider the cumulative impact of the well and surrounding wells also made it into the bill.
The budget must pass both houses in identical form prior to being sent to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.
The 2013 Farm Bill will be debated on the House floor Wednesday and Thursday along with consideration of between 30 and 60 amendments, according to House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK-3).
Food processors have an interest in the House bill as it does not prohibit or limit in any way the planting of fruits and vegetables on base acres. This means that current crop and acreage restrictions (such as those provided in the Farm Flex Pilot Program) are no longer necessary. MWFPA, in conjunction with the American Fruit and Vegetable Processors and Growers Coalition, has been working to remove the planting restrictions seeking more land for processing fruit and vegetable crops.
Under the House version, beginning with the 2014 crop year, producers will have unlimited ability to grow fruits and vegetables on their farm acreage without any reduction in farm program benefits. The House measure also includes the use of processed fruits and vegetables in the federal school snack program.
Although House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) recently announced his support for the bill, finding 218 votes for passage might still prove difficult. One problem is that the $20.5 billion in cuts in food stamps over 10 years is not only drawing the ire of liberals who see that as too much, but also from some conservatives who see it as too little.
The House needs to pass a farm bill this month so lawmakers in both the House and Senate can have time in July to merge their bills into one final measure they will vote on. Congress leaves for summer recess in early August and does not return to Washington until after Labor Day. The Senate passed its version of the farm bill earlier this month.
The House Judiciary Committee will begin markup of two pieces of immigration legislation this week.
There are other committees in the House that have also been working on piecemeal immigration bills.
MWFPA continues to monitor the progress of immigration reform proposal, especially in the areas regarding agricultural worker programs and E-verify requirements. The Association supports immigration reform that will allow more legal immigrants to work in the U.S. while protecting businesses that follow legal hiring practices.