The Republican Majority Leaders for the state Senate and Assembly both said they’re close on a budget deal Friday. Yet their positions still sounded worlds apart in separate interviews with Media Trackers Communications Director Jerry Bader.
Governor Scott Walker offered Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, the use of $200 million proposed tax cuts to instead pay for road projects. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said that proposal could be the bridge that brings the two houses back together:
“I give all the credit to Governor Walker. His leadership on this issue has really, in my mind, has bridged the gap between the two sides and laid out a framework that we can live with. It’s headed back to the negotiation table with the Senate. All we’re waiting for is the Senate on this. We’re anxious to get back to talks and get this budget wrapped up.”
Steineke said he was at a loss to understand why the Senate didn’t get on board with Walker’s proposal. But Fitzgerald argued that what Walker put forth is really no grand proposal at all. He says it is being mischaracterized by Assembly leaders:
“Let me clear up one thing; $200 million in an income tax being eliminated from the governor’s budget doesn’t eliminate $500 million being eliminated in bonding…those numbers don’t work. We put out a full budget on Tuesday. The Assembly responded with basically a letter/press release, to give the illusion that there was some type of deal cooked up between the Governor and the Assembly and they’re taking it. That’s all sleight of hand. There’s nothing there. We still need $300 million in other reductions to wipe out that $500 million in bonding. And I have no idea what that looks like or where they’re coming up with those funds…but there really is no deal there.”
The state budget is now three weeks over due because the houses have been deadlocked in a dispute over how to pay for road funding. Assembly leadership has insisted on revenue increases: tax and fee hikes. The Senate and Walker have rejected that, favoring borrowing. While the sides seemed to be far apart, Fitzgerald rejected the notion the differences were irreconcilable differences: “No, no, no. I don’t want to suggest that we aren’t fairly close because I think we are.” Steineke also suggested the two sides aren’t all that far apart.
Further complicating the transportation debate is talk of Taiwanese iPhone manufacturer Foxconn looking to place a $7 billion dollar plant here. Wisconsin is competing with other states for the jobs that facility would bring and Fitzgerald says it’s likely Walker would like the budget put to bed so he can focus on that effort. “if there’s something looming like this…it would be much cleaner to get the state budget wrapped up before we launch into this new area of Foxconn,” Fitzgerald said.
You can hear our interview with Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke here:
You can hear our interview with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald here: