Republican legislative leaders say they may make changes to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget in the coming months, possibly shifting money to address lawmakers’ priorities.
“I like the way the governor laid it out,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. “It’s just, I know the Legislature is probably going to be all over the place.”
Items for possible changes include, for instance, Walker’s request to add $649 million into K-12 schools, cut tuition at the UW System by 5 percent in the second year of the budget, borrow for his transportation plan and cut certain taxes.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the guv’s transportation budget “seems like it needs a lot of improvement,” but he’s optimistic the Legislature will be able to help find a long-term solution.
Vos and Walker have been at odds over revenue increases for the transportation fund. Vos and fellow Assembly GOP leaders have released an overview of a plan to cut income taxes by $300 million to clear the way for increasing revenue for the transportation fund. Walker has said he will veto any budget that increases the gas tax or registration fee without an offsetting tax cut elsewhere. He also has said several times in recent weeks now is not the time to raise the gas tax.
Vos said Walker’s plan amounts to a “whole lot of credit card spending” and pushing expenses into the future.
Rep. John Nygren, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, said Walker “seems to be punting” on finding a long-term fix to transportation. He said lawmakers could take some parts of Walker’s spending, such as the $35 million he wants to use to pay for a tuition cut, and increase transportation spending or reduce the $500 million in bonding Walker wants.
“It’s hard for us to say we’re going to cut tuition when we’re not investing in our infrastructure,” the Marinette Republican said.
Sen. Alberta Darling, the other Finance co-chair, said it was important to find a sustainable solution for roads, although she added some in the GOP caucus believe there’s plenty of money in the transportation fund.
“That debate’s going to be a very healthy one in the Senate, and I welcome that. We need to address the issue, we can’t just kick the can down the road,” said Darling, R-River Hills.
Meanwhile Dems, including Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, slammed Walker for not addressing the issue.
“He made it clear he has absolutely no intention whatsoever to try and finally come up with a sustainable funding system,” the Kenosha Dem said.
And Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Walker’s budget failed to address the transpo funding shortfall.
“If we don’t have safe and reliable roads, bridges and public infrastructure, our economy will continue to suffer and working families will fall further behind,” she said.
Legislative leaders also weighed in on several other topics.
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