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Fitzgerald: State Budget Negotiations ‘Back On Track’

Budget Conflicts Over Transportation, K-12 Education, Taxes Remain

Wisconsin state Capitol
Lori Greig (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A Republican leader in the state Capitol said Wednesday negotiations over the budget are “back on track,” even as GOP leadership remain divided on some key issues.

Leading Republicans met with Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday morning to hash out differences on transportation, K-12 education and taxes.

The meeting came after a high-profile spat Tuesday between Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, over road funding. Vos favors a possible gas tax increase. Fitzgerald supports more borrowing for roads.

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After Wednesday’s meeting, Vos told reporters the leaders’ tone has changed.

“I want to negotiate a solution that everybody can live with — I think that’s where the governor was and I heard that from Sen. Fitzgerald today,” Vos said. “So, perhaps it’s just a good night’s sleep.”

Vos said the meeting showed the Senate and Assembly are open to each other’s ideas. He told reporters lawmakers are “closer than we have been” to reaching consensus.

“I think the discussions are always productive when the three of us are in the room and that we are open-minded to each other’s solutions,” Vos said.

Fitzgerald said the meeting put negotiations “back on track.”

Fitzgerald also told reporters on Wednesday that Senate Republicans may consider a possible fee increase on heavy trucks that travel Wisconsin roads. The increase would help fund the transportation budget.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce quickly came out against that possibility, saying the increase would “unfairly discriminate against businesses that make and grow things in Wisconsin.”

“Paying for the transportation budget on the backs of Wisconsin businesses is simply unacceptable,” said Scott Manley, senior vice president of government relations at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, in a prepared statement.

The state budget deadline is June 30. If lawmakers miss the deadline for a new budget, last year’s budget will remain in place.