Subscribe for 17¢ / day

What appeared to be a fast-approaching end to the state's 10-week budget standoff was thrown into question Tuesday, as state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald acknowledged he currently lacks the votes to pass the latest version of the budget.

The state Assembly is poised to hold a marathon session Wednesday on the budget, lasting as much as 12 hours.

The Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee last week passed an amended version of the budget, signaling to many that it was on course for swift passage.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans, of which there are 20, currently have "15 or more" votes to pass the Joint Finance Committee-approved budget.

Seventeen votes are needed for passage in the 33-member Senate, assuming none of the 13 Democrats vote in favor.

The Republican Senate holdouts on the budget have what Fitzgerald described as a range of objections, including overall spending levels in the budget and its prescriptions for transportation, which has been the most contentious budget area. 

"It's a mixed bag of issues," Fitzgerald said.

Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said Tuesday night that he's among the holdouts.

“The goal line is in sight, but there’s got to be some additional transportation reforms," Kapenga said. "There’s nothing in the current budget, the way it’s drafted, that will really get us closer to fixing the DOT.”

Kapenga sponsored a bill earlier this session that calls for a new audit of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and enacts what he and other supporters describe as measures to enable the department to operate more efficiently, including expanding the ways it can bring construction projects to completion. 

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Allouez, asked Tuesday about his stance on the budget, said: “I don’t have any comment on that right now.”

Spokespersons for Sens. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, and Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, also confirmed they are not yet "yes" votes on the budget.

Nass spokesman Mike Mikalsen said the senator wants to see a full repeal of the state's prevailing wage take effect Jan. 1. Under the Joint Finance Committee budget, that repeal would take effect in September 2018.

Fitzgerald said he hopes to marshal the Senate votes to pass the budget by this Friday.

"I think the senators want to get the budget done, and I think there's a willingness to kind of work with leadership to make that happen," he said. 

Gov. Scott Walker has said he expects to sign the budget by the official end of summer, which is Sept. 22.

The budget has been overdue since July 1, when the 2018 fiscal year began. Since then, state agencies have operated at spending levels from the previous year.


Load comments