As Republican lawmakers continue to meet behind closed doors to finalize the state budget, Governor Scott Walker expressed some optimism that they will wrap up their work on the two-year spending plan in the near future. During a call with reporters Wednesday, Walker said transportation funding is probably the biggest issue still facing the Legislature and “once they get to that, they should be ready to go.”
Walker’s budget proposal called for $1.3 billion in bonding to help fund transportation projects, a figure GOP leaders have balked at and said they want to see drastically reduced. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has maintained it should be lowered by at least $800 million. The governor said he expects them to figure out an “appropriate level” and hopes they will try to be as close as possible to what he originally proposed.
Walker on Wednesday restated his opposition to any gas tax or vehicle registration fees to pay for road projects, without the increases being offset in other areas. That means lawmakers would have to find other sources of revenue to pay for roads if they don’t want to halt or slow down projects. The governor noted that’s not likely to happen though, given the state’s current financial outlook.
It’s been two weeks since members of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee met publicly to discuss the budget. Walker indicated he was hopeful they would be back to wrap up their work by the end of this week, although JFC co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) told the Associated Press later in the day that the committee is unlikely to meet before next week.