CHICAGO – Wisconsin’s Senate Republicans are pitching a new budget plan aimed at breaking a stalemate but its reliance on $700 million of borrowing to help tackle a transportation spending gap may fall flat in the Assembly.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and other Senate GOP members unveiled the proposal Tuesday, putting the ball in the court of House Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.
The proposal includes budget items upon which the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee has already signed off, and the Senate’s compromise offers on transportation and education funding, but it didn’t appear Wednesday to have moved either side closer to a resolution.
“Our budget keeps the state’s major projects on track while holding bonding at a responsible level,” Fitzgerald said.
The budget package “represents a reasonable compromise on the major outstanding issues” that meets Gov. Scott Walker’s priorities of funding K-12 education while holding the line on property taxes, and “insuring sound investments in transportation without raising taxes,” Fitzgerald said.
On transportation, Senate leaders want to repay half of a new $712 million two-year bonding authorization with revenue that currently goes into a school and health care program account, instead of the transportation fund which gets transportation related taxes. Senate Republicans initially supported $850 million in borrowing and Walker has endorsed $500 million.
The personal property tax imposed on business equipment purchases would be eliminated and the state would provide local governments with $239 million annually to offset losses. The plan eliminates Walker's proposal to cut income taxes. General state aid to districts would increase by more than $600 million over the next two year. Both were sought by Walker in his proposed $76 billion budget.
Vos said the Assembly would review the package and is hoping to pass something in the coming weeks but he remains opposed to borrowing unless tax revenue is raised to support it. Vos had backed higher gasoline taxes but dropped that effort due to Walker’s opposition to tax hikes.
The Walker administration praised the latest package. Minority Democrats blasted the ongoing stalemate as a failure of the GOP and said a long term solution to the state’s transportation funding woes is needed that doesn’t rely on borrowing.
Wisconsin carries double-A ratings from all four rating agencies with Moody’s Investors Service assigning a positive outlook.