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Bill would force state agencies to submit budget cuts (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — State agencies would have to give the governor plans for cutting spending or maintaining it at current levels along with their biennial budget requests under a bill two Republican lawmakers are trying to push through the Legislature.

Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield and Sen. Chris Kapenga of Delafield say the measure represents a step toward curtailing government expansion. State agencies’ spending has risen from $65.8 billion in the 2009-11 budget to $73.3 billion in the current 2015-17 budget.

“By having agencies provide us with this information we can have important discussions about what programs are and aren’t working and where spending can be reduced,” Hutton, R-Brookfield, said in a news release announcing the bill.

Under current state law, agencies must submit their budget requests for the next two years by Sept. 15 of every even-numbered year. The requests assume the agencies will receive the same amount of funding they got in the last biennium and build from there. The governor uses those requests as a starting point for building the next budget.

Under the bill, each agency would have to attach a plan to their budget request for reducing their spending by 5 percent in the upcoming biennium. They also would have to include a plan for maintaining their current budget levels for the two-year period.

“For too long we have worked on the assumption that all spending from prior budgets is justified,” Kapenga told the Senate’s government operations committee during a public hearing on the bill Thursday.

The bill hasn’t drawn much attention and its prospects are unclear. Kapenga and Hutton were the only ones to testify on the measure during the hearing. No groups have registered in support or opposition, according to state Government Accountability Board records.

Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, said she hadn’t spoken with Vos on Friday and had no immediate comment on the bill. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s spokeswoman, Myranda Tanck, didn’t immediately respond to an email inquiring about the bill’s chances. A spokeswoman for Gov. Scott Walker also didn’t immediately respond to an email message.

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