Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee has begun the process of reviewing the proposed state budget.
Lawmakers met Monday for the first of several executive sessions on the two year spending plan, which will likely result in many changes to the budget Governor Scott Walker introduced earlier this year. JFC co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) said that work will make it the “Legislature’s budget” by the time they are finished.
The first day saw a relatively brief meeting, with bipartisan votes on several budget provisions. Lawmakers dropped a plan to eliminate the Wisconsin Judicial Council, but saw some division when moving ahead with a proposal to reduce the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission from three members to one.
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) was among Democrats frustrated that the bigger issues before the committee are being delayed until later in the process. “The rest of the state wants to hear what the plans are for transportation, they want to hear what the plans are for K-12 education,” he said.
Those issues will be taken up in the coming weeks, as lawmakers try to pass the budget before the state’s fiscal year ends June 30. Nygren and co-chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) both said they expect their work to be complete near that deadline.
Assembly transportation plan coming soon
Transportation funding will be a key hurdle lawmakers will have to overcome in order to get a budget done on time. Majority Republicans and Governor Scott Walker have been at odds over how to handle a shortfall in the fund, with Walker saying he will veto any budget that raises gas taxes or vehicle fees without offsetting them in some other area.
While he declined to discuss specifics, Nygren said Monday that the Assembly GOP is close to unveiling a plan that will accomplish that goal. “Any type of fee or gas tax increase that might be contained in it will be offset by some other type of revenue,” Nygren said.
Nygren said the governor’s office has been briefed on the plan, but there’s no commitment at this time.