Majority Republicans in the Legislature and the governor found themselves at odds this year on how to resolve a budget impasse. The nearly three month delay in getting a plan signed into law dominated headlines and was one of WRN’s top stories of the year.
A brewing fight over transportation funding was evident early on. After Governor Scott Walker proposed his budget in February, Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren immediately raised concerns about the proposed level of bonding for road projects and the lack of potential new sources of revenue. “There’s not a lot of leading going on in a long term solution for transportation, and that’s where it comes to us to look for that solution,” he said.
The push to rethink road funding remained a constant throughout the budget negotiation process, with talks stalling by early June. The governor seemed ready to accept the state would not hit a June 30th deadline, but he said in early June that he believed it would not take too much longer.
The process dragged on though, with the finance committee not even meeting in public for more than two months. It wasn’t until early September that Republicans agreed on a plan that reduced transportation borrowing to about $400 million…a figure Democrats argued still failed to fix serious problems.
Even after the budget passed in the Assembly, controversy continued behind the scenes as three Republican state Senators threatened to vote against the budget until they had veto assurances from the governor. Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) was highly critical of the tactic, and accused them of holding the process hostage.
In the end though, State Senators Steve Nass, Duey Stroebel, and Chris Kapenga were successful and the budget passed in mid-September after the governor agreed to veto several provisions. Walker signed the two-year spending plan September 21st, 83 days into the new fiscal year.