"Our caucus is fractured," one legislator said simply.

While most of the attention in Madison has focused on divisions within the Senate GOP caucus – and the need to placate Mike Ellis and his caucus of fellow RINOs – conservatives in the Assembly have been doing a slow burn.

Today, 11 of them signed an open letter saying that as a group "we cannot both represent our constituents and our conservative principles by supporting the budget in its current form." They list a series of objections ranging from taxes, to bonding, to DNA collection to spending. 

It is, in short a conservative manifesto, not unlike the agenda that many of them ran and won on in 2010.

Republicans enjoy a big majority in the Assembly, but they cannot lose 11 votes and still pass a budget, so the conservative revolt creates a thorny political dilemma for legislative leaders.

That’s actually good news: Given the cave-in on school choice and rumors of an impending surrender on tax cuts,  it’s obvious that Madison desperately needed an effective counter-balance to the politics of appeasement. 

Bottomline: (1) Conservatives just made themselves relevant. (2) It’s not all about Mike Ellis anymore.

Here is the full letter:  

Dear Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Suder, 

We write to you today to express our sincere concerns about the ongoing budget debate occurring in the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) and in the legislature as a whole. With the budget process nearing completion in the JFC and likely coming to the Assembly floor in the coming weeks, we believe now is the time to address our ongoing concerns in a serious and substantive manner. With this in mind, we agree as a group that we cannot both represent our constituents and our conservative principles by supporting the budget in its current form. We in good conscience cannot support this budget unless the following issues are substantially addressed:

 •         Adoption of Rep. Dale Kooyenga’s tax reform package and serious reforms to the "Marriage Penalty" tax.

•         Complete and total removal of the "DNA Collection Upon Arrest" proposal.

•         An overall reduction of $500 million in bonding.

•         Appropriations and tax reform done in a deficit neutral manner.

•         Double dipping 2/3 FTE employee provision returns to the FTE employee definition as currently defined by the Department of Employee Trust Funds.

 If you would like to discuss this matter further we would be happy to meet with you as a group and discuss our united concerns regarding this very important legislation.

While we appreciate the hard work that both of you and the JFC have put into this process, it is our sincere belief that these concerns at a minimum must be addressed to keep moving Wisconsin FORWARD.
 
Sincerely,
 
Representative David Craig                            Representative Stephen Nass
 
Representative Chris Kapenga                        Representative Tyler August
 
Representative Duey Stroebel                        Representative Gary Tauchen
 
Representative Rob Hutton                             Representative Joe Sanfelippo
 
Representative Adam Neylon                          Representative Paul Tittl
 
Representative Don Pridemore