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Dems say state budget hole will put a damper on their big ticket items

Wisconsin's new Democratic leaders say the faltering economy will put a damper on their biggest ideas.

So for now, state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, says the focus will be on items with smaller price tags, like giving fringe benefits to domestic partners of University of Wisconsin employees.

Madison is one of the few large campuses in the Midwest not to offer such benefits. UW spokesman David Giroux says it makes harder to recruit and keep top faculty members.

Domestic partner benefits are projected to cost about $670,000 a year.

But Giroux says the money will returned in the form of federal grants obtained by the major researchers who come or stay at the UW because of the benefits.

Republicans have fought off those benefits the last few years.

A spokesman for Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who's losing his post as chair of the Assembly Colleges Committee, says it's one of the things the Democrats will have no trouble passing now.

Nass aide Mike Mikalsen says such a move will put Democrats out of touch with ordinary folks who are worried about the economy.

And Nass says the GOP will make that point loud and clear when the Democrats bring those kinds of things up.