GOP leaders still at odds after Senate Republicans release budget proposal

Photo by Michlle Stocker, The Capital Times

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald Tuesday challenged Assembly Republicans to come up with something “palatable” that his caucus could support after unveiling a plan that would repeal the personal property tax, wipe out the guv’s income tax cuts and raise income limits for the statewide voucher program.

But Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, called the Senate plan a non-starter because it also called for $712 million in new borrowing for roads over the next two years. Steineke said he had hoped Senate Republicans would produce something that moved closer to the Assembly GOP and guv on lowering bonding.

“They didn’t come up with something that we could live with,” Steineke told WisPolitics.com in a phone interview.

Fitzgerald, though, said at a Capitol news conference Tuesday the plan his caucus released is more in line with Gov. Scott Walker on several areas, including transportation, because it wouldn’t boost the gas tax or registration fee.

“I just know right now a gas tax increase and a vehicle registration increase, the caucus is not going to go along with that,” Fitzgerald said.

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Still, Fitzgerald also said he had not whipped 17 votes needed to pass the proposal unveiled today, stressing it was not a final document. He expected the proposal to change as talks continue with the Assembly and said some of his members have “parochial” interests in their districts that they would want to see addressed in a final budget.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the guv is more aligned with the Senate’s transportation plan because it sticks to his pledge not to raise the gas tax or registration fees. The guv also does not want to see delays in major highway projects that would likely be caused if the Legislature approved no new bonding for transportation. Still, he added the $712 million in borrowing the Senate GOP proposed is something that would have to be negotiated by the two caucuses.

“We welcome the initiative by the Senate to move the process forward because it’s keeping the governor’s priorities largely intact that he proposed back in February,” Evenson said.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a JFC member, said Dems are stunned the state would spend more over the next two years than it has in any previous budget, but Republicans can’t work out a deal to fix Wisconsin’s crumbling roads.

The Middleton Dem also placed the blame on Walker, saying the guv knew two years ago that GOP lawmakers were unhappy with the level of bonding in the 2015-17 budget and wanted a long-term fix in this one. But the guv did not deliver.

“He needs to come back to Madison and do his job,” Erpenbach said.

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