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Assembly Democrats pass budget repair bill

Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature rammed through a series of tax increases Wednesday to help balance the state's current budget.

No Republicans in either house supported what Democrats called a stimulus package which piggybacks the one from Washington.

However, the legal requirement, though, was to repair a budget that's $600 million-dollars short in revenues thanks to the recession. Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, said the federal stimulus money in the bill would put people back to work, by applying $300 million to road projects.

It also puts a new state tax on hospitals, raises corporate income taxes by closing a loophole, applies the sales tax to custom business software, Internet shoppers, and music downloads.

Republicans tried to kill the tax hikes by proposing 50 amendments that went nowhere.

Rep. Mark Gundrum, R-New Berlin, called it a foolish time to raise taxes on businesses.

Senate GOP leader Scott Fitzgerald, Juneau, said the corporate tax hike would drive businesses away.

"The Democrats have controlled the Assembly for 45 days and raised taxes by $1.2 billion resulting in tax increases of $25 million per day. This pattern does not help Wisconsin," said Fitzgerald.

"Elections have consequences," Rep. Fitzgerald said. "Democrats control all of state government and are jamming through billions of tax increases at the worst time possible," he added.

Other Republicans said the public never had a say, because the bill was introduced just three days ago and never had a public hearing.

Gov. Jim Doyle is expected to sign it by the end of the week. In the Senate, all 18 Democrats voted yes and all 15 Republicans voted no. Rep. Polly Williams, D-Milwaukee, and Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, D-Manitowoc, joined all Republicans in voting no.