By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday he expects a deal to come together in the coming days to break a near-monthlong impasse on the state budget, while the Senate majority leader said he still does not have the votes to pass the two-year spending plan.
Walker also said he was “cautiously optimistic” that a $500 million financing plan for a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium will find approval, while Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said most Senate Republicans want it to be debated separately from the budget, a move that would complicate its approval.
Walker spoke about the budget following an event at Erin Hills Golf Course in Hartford to promote the 2017 U.S. Open that’s headed there, and a pair of bill signings in Milwaukee. He downplayed the delay in budget talks. The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee has not met since May 29 and has no meetings scheduled.
Walker noted that since 1983, only three budgets have been signed before July 19, two of them in his first term. He said there was a “delusional mindset in the Capitol” concerned about the budget not getting passed by the end of the fiscal year on Tuesday.
“If we go a week or two in July, unlike the federal government we don’t shut down,” Walker said. “Nothing happens.”
After winning re-election in November, Walker said he wanted the budget to pass sooner than usual, but a variety of issues have led to the stalemate.
“In the next few days, we’re likely to see the framework of a budget deal come together,” Walker said in Milwaukee, adding that he thinks all involved are “in a good position” to wrap it up soon.
Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wasn’t so sure.
“It sounds like the governor is more optimistic than I am,” Vos said in response.
Some of the issues still being debated among Republicans include whether to delay work on the Zoo Interchange near Milwaukee, whether to include the Bucks stadium plan and what changes to make to the state’s prevailing wage law that sets minimum salaries for construction workers on certain public works jobs.
Fitzgerald told WTMJ radio that Republican senators firmly believed that $800 million in cuts for state highway and transportation projects must not affect the ongoing Zoo Interchange work near Milwaukee. That is a key difference between Assembly Republicans who want cuts in road funding to be spread evenly throughout the state.
The Zoo Interchange forms the junction of Interstate 94, I-894 and U.S. 45 just west of Milwaukee. The redesign of the interchange began in 2013 and is expected to cost $1.7 billion by the time it’s done in 2018, if it remains on track.
“It’s got to be completed,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not something to mess with. And we’re all going to have egg on our face if the busiest interchange in Wisconsin is hanging there undone for two years. It’s ridiculous.”
On the Bucks arena deal, Fitzgerald said he was meeting with Democrats to discuss their support in light of the likelihood it will be pulled from the budget for a vote later this year. The outline of a funding agreement was announced June 4, but the actual language of the proposal has not been released.
Walker said it was “up in the air” whether the deal would remain in the budget.
Fitzgerald said one idea that has not been ruled out, but that wasn’t part of the package unveiled earlier this month, would be placing a surcharge on ticket sales to help pay for the arena. The proposed plan called for $250 million in money from the public and $250 million from current and former Bucks owners.