Dissecting the State Budget: What's in the fine print?

GREEN BAY — Last week, Gov. Scott Walker released his biennial budget. It's a more than 1,000 page document.

Many legislators admit they haven't been able to read the details yet. But if you look at the fine print, you'll find some pretty interesting things.

Click here to read and track the full budget bill

Look under the gambling heading.

There's a passage many might miss about crane games - the arcade amusements your children beg to play, in which they use a metal claw to retrieve a stuffed animal, or at least attempt to.

Who knew you had to have a permit to own and operate a game? But the state budget bill would deregulate crane games.

The State Department of Administration used to regulate this game as a game of chance, which meant it was technically gambling and needed a permit. Now, they regulate it as a game of skill.

The statement from the DOA says:

"It was included as part of the Governor's budget because it may have a very minor fiscal impact on program revenue. Please note that no employee positions are impacted."

We did a FOX 11 Fact Check on what the DOA meant by a "very minor fiscal impact."

According to the Licenses, Permit and Registration Services website, more than 2,400 crane games are in operation in Wisconsin. Each machine has a $120 one-time fee.

That means the crane game permits would have only raised $288,000 for the state.

A seemingly small amount, compared to the $15.3 billion biennial budget.

"They push bargaining chips in there. You mention the crane game regulation, that I think we should have a purely fiscal budget is what I'd like to see us do,” said State Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton).

She says items like the crane game regulation don't belong in the state budget. She's reintroducing a bill that would prevent non-fiscal items from being included in future budgets.

"Everything in the budget you could probably trace back to some sort of fiscal impact. The way I measure it is if it is a bigger policy impact versus a money impact,” said Bernard Schaber.

Bernard Schaber's idea has gained some bipartisan support.

“It would be my basic principle to not have policy items like this in the budget. They should be introduced as separate bills. I think this is what people in our respective districts want to see. They want to see transparency,” State Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Allouez) said over the phone.

Others legislators say it's a gray area. But, they say how the state budget bill is crafted deserves some discussion.

"Another issue to think about though along those lines is we're not able to legislate future legislatures. So it would require a constitutional amendment to prevent those things from occurring in future legislatures,” said State Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay).

This new state budget still has to be approved by the legislature and signed by the governor.

So whether items like crane game regulation will survive months of budget debates appears to be a matter of chance.

Copyright 2014 WLUK TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Wisconsin (change)

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wisconsin’s population totaled 5,686,986, a 6.0% increase over the 2000 U.S. Census count of 5,363,715. (Source: Wisconsin Blue Book)
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Governor: Scott Walker
Lieutenant Governor: Rebecca Kleefisch
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