Stateline Story

New York Senate Back At Work, Wisconsin Gets Budget

New York's state Senate returned to work after a two-month break, Wisconsin lawmakers approved a $41-billion budget three months late and squabbling between two powerful Massachusetts politicians is keeping that state without a budget well past its July 1 fiscal deadline.

One bill that senators will weigh calls for tougher penalties for students threatening violence on school campuses. Another beefs up the felonies associated with falsely reporting a bombing, fire or the existence of hazardous materials.

Indicative of the ramifications of Columbine High, a state Senate task force spent much of Wednesday looking for links between violent video games and violent children. New York's Assembly doesn't return until after Thanksgiving.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers approved a $41billion budget -- albeit three months late -- that should give the average taxpayer $673 in property and income tax breaks over the next two years. Wisconsin's state Senate was the first to approve the measure on Wednesday, with the assembly okaying the bill 82 to 17 vote a few hours before midnight.

A $1-billion surplus made the tax breaks possible. One of them creates $339 million in permanent income tax cuts proposed by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson in February.

Wisconsin's state budget deadline was July 1.

That's the same date Massachusetts was to have its budget finished, but wrangling between Senate president Thomas F. Birmingham and House speaker Thomas F. Finneran has prevented that from coming to pass.

Seared by withering criticism that they've allowed their egos to take precedence over Massachusetts business, both men say they're close to a deal.

But as Birmingham tellingly told the Boston Globe, ''we're prepared to compromise, but we're not prepared to capitulate.'' Finneran has said he would like to have the process finished by Nov. 1.