As the clock ticks down on the end of the state’s fiscal year, lawmakers remain divided on how to finish up work on the state budget.
Talks between the Senate and Assembly resumed Tuesday morning, but Assembly Republican Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said they ended after less than an hour. “We came here for an entire day of negotiations,” Steineke told reporters. “After 40 minutes, the Senate walked away from the table.”
That decision to walk away stems from a continued disagreement between the chambers about how to handle portions of the budget – primarily transportation funding. The Senate is pushing a plan that would see the state rely more heavily on borrowing to fund roads, while Assembly Republicans want to see less borrowing and possibly new revenue sources. Governor Scott Walker has vowed to veto any budget that raises taxes or fees to pay for transportation.
Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) on Tuesday called the Assembly position “laughable,” while adding that his chamber is where it needs to be on the key issues in the budget. “I’m not going to sit across the street with the speaker and continue to negotiate about a bunch of items that, quite honestly, we have already resolved in the senate,” he said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) took issue with their plan being described as laughable, firing back Tuesday during an impromptu press conference at the Capitol. “Our position is realistic,” he argued.
The speaker also accused Fitzgerald of giving an “ultimatum,” and then walking out when the Assembly refused to accept it. “To me, negotiations means give and take,” Vos said.
While there has been some discussion about the Senate passing its own version of the plan, Vos maintained hope that would not happen. “That is not our goal…our goal is to use the process that has always worked,” he said. “People sit down with conflicting ideas, and they find a way to get to yes.”
The state’s fiscal year ends on June 30 and lawmakers are supposed to have a budget signed by then. However, state government does continue to operate if that deadline has been passed. Lawmakers in both chambers maintained confidence Tuesday that they will reach an agreement before the lack of a budget becomes an issue for the state.