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DOA Secretary put on defense over budget plan

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MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The head of the Walker administration was put on the defensive Tuesday, as his fellow Republicans questioned plans to borrow a billion-dollars and add 700 new state employees.

Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch appeared before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, as the panel started reviewing Governor Scott Walker’s two-year budget package.

GOP co-chair John Nygren said he did not expect the governor to, “grow the size of government.” Most of the extra borrowing is for highway projects. Huebsch called it a one-time increase, and he denied that it’s the “new normal.”

He said some of the extra state employees are needed to administer the Obama health reform law – and 180 extra highway engineers are needed after Huebsch said the DOT was, “cannibalized” in recent years.

The former administration relied more on private engineers, as part of Jim Doyle’s campaign pledge to cut thousands of people from the state payroll. But Huebsch said it was more expensive to outsource – and the DOT would save almost $6 million with its own engineers.

Also, lawmakers questioned Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s plan to bring back a solicitor general to defend the state against a growing number of legal challenges to Walker’s policies. Among other things, Van Hollen said he was hard pressed to find non-union lawyers to defend the governor’s collective bargaining limits.

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