MADISON, Wis. — One of three Wisconsin Assembly Republicans who voted against the state budget Wednesday said his decision was a difficult one.
Rep. Steve Kestell of Elkhart Lake said his "no" vote was because the budget Gov. Scott Walker proposed contains too many non-fiscal policy items he opposes or didn't have time to understand.
"There's so much in the budget that shouldn't have been there," Kestell said of the 94 policy items identified by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, including creating a bail bondsmen program that Democrats have assailed.
The GOP-controlled Assembly easily approved the budget 55-42 after Democrats surprisingly decided against offering any amendments or prolonging debate, saying the $70 billion spending plan can't be fixed. Kestell, along with two other Republicans, Reps. Steve Nass and Howard Marklein, joined 39 Democrats in opposition.
"It's not a decision I came to easily because it's a budget that has a good quality," Kestell said of his vote. "But it should not be a policy document."
Kestell said he is troubled that many controversial items were tucked into the budget in the last minute without going through the regular committee process or public debate.
"I couldn't swallow hard enough to accept that," Kestell said. "The only reason they are there is a lot of people don't like them."
Nass had promised earlier in the week to vote against the plan, citing numerous issues including a projected $500 million deficit for the 2015-2017 budget, allowing the return of bail bondsmen and what he called a flawed voucher school expansion because income limits are too low.
Messages left for Nass and Marklein were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.
Kestell said although he knew their opposition would matter little, "no elected officials should vote yes or no on important legislation based on what other people are doing."
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said before the vote that Nass' position was well known, but he wasn't sure about Marklein or Kestell's position.
"It did not surprise me in either of their cases," Vos said.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he hadn't spoken with Marklein about his vote. Marklein has already announced that he is running for the Senate next year, running for the seat currently held by moderate Republican Sen. Dale Schultz.
"I'm not really sure what Howard was thinking," Fitzgerald said of Marklein's vote.
The Senate is scheduled to vote Thursday on the budget.