State Republican lawmakers formally announced a deal on a state budget, compromising on several key points in an attempt to bring over a month of turmoil and uncertainty surrounding the bill to a close, although it is unclear whether the bill has enough support to clear the state Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, announced the plan at a press conference mere hours after the old budget expired.
The proposal would remove a controversial plan to finance the construction of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, with plans to make the matter a stand-alone piece of legislation. The budget will also include a compromise over cuts to transportation funding, a point of contention for Republican leadership. Vos said that $500 million in bonding for road projects will be included in the budget, a marked decrease from Gov. Scott Walker’s original proposal.
Vos praised the plan, saying it demonstrated how Republicans were working to better the state’s finances.
“We were able to sit down in good faith and put together a structure that is going to allow us to finish the budget, get it to the Governor’s desk … and show how Republicans are moving the state of Wisconsin forward,” Vos said.
The Joint Finance Committee will meet Thursday morning to sign off on the deal, and the full Assembly is expected to meet next week to take up the bill.
In addition, the Assembly will also take up a bill that would repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, a major sticking point for many Republican lawmakers, at the same time as the budget. Some conservative state Senators were calling for a full repeal of the law in the budget, a move that could have deterred more moderate Republicans from voting for the budget.
“There is a core group of senators who want something closer to a full repeal and I think it could play into my gathering of votes,” Fitzgerald said, adding later he “doesn’t have the votes to pass the budget” presently.
Democratic legislators blasted the proposal as a disservice to taxpayers.
“This budget is devastating for the state of Wisconsin and everyone knows it is,” Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said, adding that Republican lawmakers are “following our absentee governor off the cliff” and that Republican leadership had created even more uncertainty for Wisconsinites with their announcement.
Fitzgerald told WTMJ that he was optimistic the Legislature could pass the budget and finalize the Bucks and prevailing wage proposals by July 13 but acknowledged “this is not over.”