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Senate Republicans to introduce own state budget (UPDATE)

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Senate Republicans announced Monday that they plan to introduce their own version of the spending plan, a move that could worsen a standoff with their Assembly counterparts over road money.

Republicans have been quarreling for months over how to fill a nearly $1 billion shortfall in the transportation fund. The fight has brought work on the state budget to a standstill.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced Monday that his chamber will introduce its own budget during a morning news conference on Tuesday at the state Capitol. His spokeswoman, Myranda Tanck, said the budget will include all the budget provisions the Assembly and Senate have already agreed upon over the last few months but will contain the Senate’s plans for roads, tax changes and K-12 education funding, the three spending areas the Legislature’s finance committee has yet to deal with. She declined to offer any further details.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos issued a two-sentence statement saying he looks forward to seeing the Senate’s ideas.
Fitzgerald’s decision risks widening the rift with Assembly Republicans over road money. The state budget Gov. Scott Walker introduced in February calls for filling the transportation fund’s shortfall by borrowing an additional $500 million and delaying projects.

Typically the Senate and the Assembly work together through the finance committee to revise the governor’s budget, finalizing the spending plan before the houses vote on the document.

But Assembly Republicans have balked at the idea of borrowing more for roads, calling that approach short-sighted. They want to find ways to generate more revenue for road work, including possibly raising the gas tax or vehicle-registration fees. Walker, who is preparing to run for a third term next year and doesn’t want anyone to accuse of him raising taxes, has promised to veto any gas tax or fee increase. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have proposed borrowing more than Walker, to the tune of $750 million.

Both sides have called the other’s position “laughable” and a number of meetings have amounted to nothing. Vos has said if Senate Republicans won’t come up with a way to pay for additional borrowing the only option is to keep road funding flat. That could delay major interstate projects in southeastern Wisconsin.

As for the state spending plan, the last time the Legislature’s joint budget committee met to vote on budget provisions was June 15. State law requires the budget to be completed by July 1, although that’s not a hard-and-fast deadline; for the most part, spending will continue at current levels until a new budget is adopted.

If the Senate decides to go its own way, it could delay the budget even further since both chambers must pass the same document before it can go to Walker. But it could give Senate Republicans an opportunity to stake out which projects will proceed, sending a message to supporters in those regions. It could also give Fitzgerald the ability to blame Vos for delays in the plan’s adoptoin.

Also complicating matters is tax increases that Illinois enacted as part of its state budget.

Wisconsin residents who work in Illinois file taxes in Wisconsin. The state then pays Illinois the difference of what would have been owed. Since taxes are going up in Illinois, Wisconsin’s payment will increase by more than $20 million. Illinois’ changes also will result in Wisconsin residents claiming $31 million more in credits for taxes paid in other states.

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