For the second budget in a row, Wisconsin will ends its fiscal year without a new two-year spending plan in place. The current biennium is set to end at midnight tonight, with majority Republicans in the state Assembly and Senate still far apart on finalizing details of a new budget.
While the state will start a new fiscal year July 1 with no budget in place, government operations will continue. The lack of a plan simply means the state’s current taxing and funding levels remain in place for the time being.
Among the remaining areas still under negotiation are K-12 education and transportation funding. While GOP leaders in both chambers have said they are close to an agreement on schools, how to pay for the state’s road projects over the next two years remains a major point of contention. The Senate favors an approach which would have the state rely on almost $850 million borrowing, while Assembly Republicans argue the focus should be on finding new sources of revenue. Governor Scott Walker has said he will veto any budget that raises taxes or fees to pay for transportation.
Lawmakers met behind closed doors and with the governor this week, which saw some of the discontent between the two chambers makes its way out into public view. Negotiations held Tuesday were cut short abruptly, and leadership quickly pointed fingers at each other over who was to blame. Attitudes seemed to shift the next day, with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) more optimistic after meeting with the governor.
Still, the two chambers have shown no sign that they are any closer to an agreement. A plan that emerged later in the week, which calls for imposing a miles traveled tax on heavy trucks to pay for roads, appeared to initially have some support. However, five Republican senators released a statement on Friday indicating they oppose the concept, making it unlikely it would have the support needed to pass through the state Senate.
It’s not the first time lawmakers have been late on passing a spending plan. In the past decade alone, the 2015 state budget was not signed by the governor until mid-July, while the 2007 budget was not signed until late October.