JFC action on budget stalls amid GOP division over K-12 funding

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Speaker Robin Vos vowed Tuesday his caucus would not rubber stamp Scott Walker’s budget, while the guv and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald dismissed the Assembly GOP’s K-12 proposal as a non-starter.

Backed by members of his caucus, Vos touted the $580 million Assembly GOP plan as a fairer approach than Walker’s proposal. The Rochester Republican said it would put more money into the classroom than the guv’s plan. The speaker also claimed it would result in a property tax bill in 2018 that’s lower than the ones sent out in December as well as those mailed to homeowners in 2010 before Republicans took control of the Capitol.

“It’s not about us vs. them. It’s not about which side you’re on,” Vos said amid continued GOP infighting. “It’s about whose side we’re going to work for, and that’s really the taxpayers and the students of this state.”

The Assembly GOP plan would fall short of Walker’s demand that property taxes in 2018 be lower than the bills sent out in 2014 and totals nearly $70 million less than the $649 million the guv wants to pump into K-12 education.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, released a statement even before the Assembly GOP news conference began saying his caucus remained committed to Walker’s proposal and the Assembly GOP plan “is simply not the direction that this budget is headed.”

“We will continue to look for ways to support low spending districts, but a proposal that raises property taxes and picks winners and losers within our school districts is a move away from the position of both the Governor and the Senate Republican caucus,” said Fitzgerald, who was meeting with his caucus Tuesday afternoon.

Gov. Scott Walker also reiterated his concerns Tuesday that the Assembly GOP plan would reduce his proposed K-12 investment and let property taxes increase in some areas.

“That goes at odds with what our top two priorities are, so my hope is in the end, we’ll get a budget that gets closer to where we’re at,” he told reporters.

He also downplayed the divisions between GOP lawmakers, saying “a lot can happen” in a couple of days and that there’s still a lot of time before the end of the fiscal year.

He also said such divisions are bound to happen because “we have such sizeable majorities” in both chambers.

“I’m an optimist,” he said. “I don’t see that to be anything that can’t be overcome.”

Tuesday’s developments come a day after Fitzgerald warned his caucus may go on its own to write a budget if the Joint Finance Committee does not meet Thursday.

Still, JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, told reporters the committee likely can’t meet again until there is a “gentleman’s agreement” on K-12 funding. That’s because it impacts so much of the discussion on the remaining pieces of the budget.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, meanwhile, pushed Republicans to put aside their differences and “fully fund” education.

“When many schools in Wisconsin are having trouble keeping their doors open, they don’t have the luxury of waiting for the outcome of petty political battles,” Barca said.

See details on the Assembly GOP K-12 plan and more in Tuesday’s PM Update.

 

 

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