SCOTT BAUER and TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker on Monday offered “give and take” on the state budget with other Republicans who control the Legislature as long as his top tax-cutting and school-funding priorities are met.
Walker and his fellow Republicans can’t reach an agreement on several central questions concerning the state’s next two-year budget, most notably how to pay for roads. Republicans in the Senate and Assembly may also end up writing their own versions of the budget, a prominent lawmaker said Monday, further delaying passage and providing further evidence of their inability to reach a deal.
Walker has been trying to keep the pressure up, holding news conferences at ongoing highway projects around the state. The projects, Walker has warned, may be halted if the standoff with the Legislature goes deep into the summer.
“We want to keep them on track,” Walker said, speaking near the Verona Road/Highway 151 project site outside of Madison in front of replica highway signs that said “Get it Done.” Walker said he was using his “bully pulpit” to lobby lawmakers publicly. He’s also met privately with Republicans in the past two weeks.
Walker also cast doubt Monday on whether he would support a plan being floated by Assembly Republicans that would let property taxes go up and spend less than he had proposed on K-12 schools. Walker said his concerns matched some that have been expressed by various Senate Republicans.
Walker has threatened to veto the entire budget if it would cause property taxes to increase.
Walker refused to commit to allowing a popular outdoors magazine published by the state Department of Natural Resources to continue. Walker has proposed eliminating it. Last week, though, the state’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee voted to keep it, reducing the number of issues a year from six to four.
Walker said he’s most desirous to see the Legislature adhere to his top priorities of reducing property taxes, paying for roads without a tax increase, increasing funding for K-12 schools and reshaping Medicaid.
If they do that, Walker said, “I’m willing to give and take on other issues” including keeping the magazine.
Walker said he’s optimistic that the budget can be approved close to the July 1 deadline. Even without a deal, state government would continue operating.
The decision to protect the DNR magazine was one among dozens made by the budget-writing committee that have departed from Walker’s agenda. The committee is still working on the budget. For its recommendation to be official, they must also be passedby the full Senate and Assembly.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said last week he was planning to have the budget done by the end of June, a timeline that others close to the process dismiss as being overly optimistic.
Editor’s note: This article’s original headline erroneously said the state’s next budget proposes spending $76 million. It’s a $76 billion budget. We regret the error