Discussions continue on possible budget deal

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Republicans Tuesday continued to detail a possible budget deal, including about $160 million in bonding for roads on top of what’s in the Foxconn bill and a new fee on hybrid and electric cars.

But even as Gov. Scott Walker said there was a deal “in principle,” the Legislature’s top GOP leaders and the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee cautioned discussions were ongoing and details were still fluid. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos described it as “similar goals” rather than a deal.

For example, lawmakers have been discussing the idea of a roughly $75 million cut in the personal property tax through exempting one schedule and then reimbursing local governments for the lost revenue.

Still, Senate Republicans previously proposed a full repeal and creating a new appropriation to backfill the lost property tax revenue for local governments at a cost of $239 million in the second year of the biennium. JFC Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said some of her members would still like to see that happen.

“Until I hear it from both leaders and the governor’s office, I would say that’s premature,” Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said of whether a deal is in place.

Still, Nygren and Darling discussed more details to an outline that first emerged last week.

A key provision would be to keep bonding for roads at roughly $410 million between the budget and the Foxconn incentive package. That bill, which was before JFC today for a public hearing, includes $252.4 million for I-94 north-south. That would leave about $160 million in borrowing for the state budget.

In their last offer, Senate Republicans sought to borrow $712 million with $362 million of that supported by the transportation fund and $350 million by general fund revenues.

Assembly Republicans, meanwhile, have been insisting on no new bonding unless there was an accompanying revenue stream.

The possible fee on hybrid and electric cars would be a new revenue for transportation, while the bonding in the Foxconn bill would be contingent upon receiving federal aid.

But talks were still ongoing with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, meeting Tuesday on remaining differences between the two caucuses. That includes, for example, whether to raise the income eligibility limit for the statewide school choice program to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, as the Assembly has proposed, or 220 percent, the Senate’s position.

The difference is an income of $73,800 for a family of four, under the Assembly suggestion, and $53,826 under the Senate position.

The current limit is 185 percent, which was $45,263.

Other provisions in the outline are similar to what WisPolitics.com first reported Friday: a reduction in the personal property tax, likely by exempting non-manufacturing equipment, and squirreling away as much cash as possible in case revenue collections soften during the upcoming two years. That would mean nixing the guv’s proposed $203.5 million in income tax cuts.

In anticipation the two sides can reach a final deal, the co-chairs told WisPolitics.com they have an outline of when JFC and the full Legislature would complete work on the budget.

Along with the hearing for Thursday that has already been noticed, JFC is looking to come in Monday to take up education and Sept. 5 for transportation. The Assembly would then take up the budget the week of Sept. 11 with the Senate to follow the week of Sept. 18.

Walker said he expects to sign the budget by Sept. 22, when summer ends, though there are “a few little details” that need to be worked out.

See Tuesday’s PM Update for more.

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