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Breaking: Without Democrats Present, Wisconsin Senate Voting on Largely-Intact Budget Repair Bill (UPDATED)

7:27 PM, Mar 9, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Update 7:33 p.m.: As I was writing this up, the state senate voted 18-1 to pass the bill described below. 

Update 7:38 p.m.: Wisconsin senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald confirms in a statement that the amended bill passed tonight includes both the collective bargaining provisions and the requirements for state workers to pay more for their pensions and health insurance premiums:

“Tonight, the Senate will be passing the items in the budget repair bill that we can, with the 19 members who actually DO show up and do their jobs.  Those items include the long-overdue reform of collective bargaining needed to help local governments absorb these budget cuts, and the 12 percent health care premium and 5 percent pension contribution.

Original post here

According to Wisconsin GOP sources, the state senate is moving towards a vote tonight on the budget repair bill--without senate Democrats present. 

The legislation being voted on tonight has few changes from the bill as initially proposed. The bill removes a refinancing provision and doesn't count savings during this fiscal year accrued by requiring public employees to pay more for their pensions and health insurance.* But it would still save the state $300 million over the next two years by requiring state employees to contribute about 5% of income toward their pensions and by requiring state workers to pay for about 12% of their health insurance premiums. It would also save $1.44 billion by requiring public employees in school districts and municipalities to pay 5% of their salaries toward their pensions and by removing collective bargaining for benefits, thus giving school districts and municipalities the option of requiring their employees to pay about 12% for their health insurance premiums.

"We are not splitting the bill. It's an an amended bill," says one source, who explains that the state's non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has said that such a vote could take place without a three-fifths quorum required for some fiscal bills. "It still has a fiscal impact, but doesn't appropriate money," which is why the senate can vote on the bill with a simple majority present. 

"All the collective bargaining and everything else is the same as the original bill."

*Correction/Clarification 8:27p.m.: I initially reported that the bill would "would save just $30 million less than the original budget bill by stripping out a refinancing provision." As I've now had it explained to me, the bill doesn't count the $30 million in savings through the end of this year that would be achieved by requiring state workers to contribute more for health and pension benefits, and the refinancing provision was also removed. Events transpired very quickly tonight, and I'll add more details when the text of the bill is released.

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