After more than two months of delays, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee was expected to meet Tuesday and complete its work on the overdue state budget.
The Republican-controlled panel is expected to take up a transportation funding package that has been at the center of a dispute holding up passage of the two year spending plan. The state faced nearly a billion dollar shortfall in the transportation fund heading into the budget process. While Assembly Republicans wanted to explore new revenue options and reduce bonding, Governor Scott Walker has insisted he will not sign a budget that includes a gas tax or vehicle registration fee increase.
The plan lawmakers take up today is expected to have a lower level bonding to pay for roads than what the governor requested, although Transportation Development Association executive director Craig Thompson says that will likely come at a cost – delays in several road projects around the state. “Once we took any meaningful revenue off the table, it really became more a matter of whether we were going to try to paper over it with bonding again or be more realistic about what a budget would mean and in which areas we would have to pare back,” he says.
Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), one of four minority Democrats on the committee, also expects road projects to see delays under the plan Republicans adopt. “I think they’re trying to figure out what the best way for them to punt on the next two years is,” he argues. “They’re not trying to solve the actual transportation challenge, but get through this budget.”
The committee is also scheduled to act today on a proposed $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn – the Taiwanese electronics maker that wants to build a factory in southeastern Wisconsin. The plan already passed the Assembly, but further changes are expected before the Senate votes on the proposal.
Republican leaders have said they hope to bring both the state budget and the Foxconn legislation up for votes in the Senate and Assembly over the next two weeks.