State News

Budget-writing committee finalizes two-month late budget

The Joint Finance Committee finalized the two-month late 2017-’19 budget Wednesday with the passage of transportation funding, taxes and wrap-up motions.

Image By: McKenzie Halling

The state’s budget writing committee wrapped up their work Wednesday, completing the budget two months late and adding in multiple provisions that affect the UW System.

In the last motion of the budget, the state’s Joint Finance Committee threw in non-fiscal items proposed in Walker’s budget pitch that had previously been removed.

Those provisions included a policy to track and report how many hours UW System professors teach in a classroom. The UW System would also be prohibited from only picking candidates who have background in academia for chancellor and presidential positions.

Under the motion, the Board of Regents will also not be allowed to use taxpayer money to bail out the UW Oshkosh Foundation without approval from the Legislature. The embattled foundation filed for bankruptcy last month after the state filed suit against former UW-Oshkosh leaders earlier this year for fraudulent transactions.

The budget, originally supposed to be finished in July, has lagged over disputes within the Republican-controlled state Legislature over taxes and transportation funding. The committee threw out some tax aspects of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget, namely income tax cuts, a back-to-school sales tax holiday and raising tax credits for residents with income below the poverty line.

The JFC also moved to give state employees, including UW faculty, a two percent raise earlier than originally planned.

Late Tuesday night, the 16-member committee approved a transportation deal on a party line vote. Borrowing or postponing highway and road projects was one of the contentious issue responsible for the budget’s two-month delay. Assembly Republicans were against borrowing money to pay for construction and Senate Republicans wanted to follow Walker’s proposal to beef up transportation funding.

The committee passed a 20-page deal Wednesday that would delay two huge highway projects in Milwaukee County, as well as other projects throughout the state. It also set a $75 fee on hybrid cars, since hybrid drivers don’t pay as many gas taxes.

“While this budget is not a solution to our transportation funding problem, we are taking a step in the right direction,” said Joint Finance co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette.

“This is going to be a large conversation, I believe we began that conversation in this budget,” Nygren continued.

The budget now heads to the floor of both chambers before landing on Walker’s desk to be signed into law. Floor votes are expected to happen next week. 

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