State News

State budget misses deadline, stalled over transportation

Infighting between top Republican leaders has caused the state’s two-year budget to miss its June 30 deadline.

Image By: Emily Buck

Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature will not pass the state’s two-year budget on time due to disputes between leaders in the Assembly and Senate over how to fund road and highway projects.

The state’s current budget ran out on June 30, a date that arrived without a consensus between the two chambers. Unlike the federal budget and neighboring states such as Illinois, Wisconsin does not shut down when the Legislature fails to pass a new budget. Instead, it runs on funding levels from the previous two-year budget until the 2017-’19 budget is passed.

Transportation is one of the hot-button issues creating dissent between members of the same party. The state’s budget-writing committee only met sporadically in June and negotiations between leaders in the Assembly and Senate abruptly ended last week.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, is not concerned about skipping over the “artificial” deadline. Vos told reporters that constituents are much more interested in the budget’s final product, rather than the process taking longer than expected.

In previous years, the state has borrowed money to fund transportation projects. Gov. Scott Walker wants to borrow $500 million and delay certain highway projects. Senate Republicans called for borrowing an additional $350 million.

Assembly Republicans reject Walker and the Senate’s plan to continuing borrowing, stating that new revenue is needed to keep the state out of debt.

One way to bring in new revenue is to increase the tax on gasoline. Walker, however, said he will veto any tax increase and has the unique power to veto single-line items in the budget, making it very unlikely a tax increase will make it in the budget.

Another option floated around the statehouse was the possibility to tax heavy trucks since their weight causes the most damage to roads. On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said that proposal is dead on arrival.

How many days past the deadline budget negotiations will go is a cause for some concern. If the budget passes in early July, most residents won’t even realize it missed the deadline. If there’s still no agreement between the Assembly, Senate and Walker by fall, then Wisconsinites could start to feel the effects in the form of delayed road projects.

Once the Joint Committee on Finance has finalized the budget it will be sent to the Assembly and Senate floor for a vote. If there are still disputes over the language of the bill, the budget will be sent to a conference committee made up of members from both chambers to resolve the differences. Once out of conference committee, the budget will reach Walker’s desk where he’ll decide whether sign it or veto all or portions of it. 

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