budget

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The Legislature’s budget committee hasn’t met since late May. While Republicans control both houses, the GOP appears to be stuck on a few items, including how to pay for transportation.

Wisconsin has experienced budget gridlock in the past. One way it was solved, was to sweeten the pot for everyone.

road construction
Marge Pitrof

State Republican leaders issued dueling press releases on Thursday, about their positions related to transportation funding in the next state budget.

Sen. Alberta Darling says will not retract her comment that Assembly leaders want to delay work on the Zoo Interchange, in order to pressure the state Senate to approve a hike in the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.

Justin W Kern

Update: Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, co-chair of the Joint Finance committee, said Wednesday the panel will not meet this week.

She says lawmakers are still wrestling over which road projects would be affected by an $800 million cut in transportation funding.

Darling says she hopes the panel will resume budget deliberations next week.

Republicans in Madison are still trying to agree on a new budget for Wisconsin. There’s talk that the Joint Finance committee may return to the table on Thursday or Friday.

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As the fiscal year comes to a close, one of the biggest questions that remains is the fate of transportation funding.

Currently, the Wisconsin legislature has significant work to do with Governor Walker's proposed biennial budget, which plans to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for various highway projects. However, one program that this new budget affects especially are Wisconsin's transit programs. 

Milwaukee Riverkeeper

The Legislature's joint finance committee voted in support of Gov. Walker's plan to eliminate 18.4 researchers within the Bureau of Science Services. The DNR says that amounts to 31.5 percent of the authorized positions within the team.

Todd Ambs is one of the people upset about the cuts.

He heads the Healing Our Waters -  Great Lakes Coalition and served as as Water Division Administrator at the Wisconsin DNR from 2003 to 2010,

All Republicans on the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee voted in favor of the changes, all Democrats voted against them. The budget plan would cut funding for the University of Wisconsin System by $250 million over the next two years, rather than the $300 million Gov. Walker wanted.

The budget committee agreed with Walker to eliminate the state law protecting tenure or indefinite status for faculty. Instead, the appointed UW Board of Regents would determine who is granted tenure.

D Schlabowske

Wisconsin was one of the first states in the country to adopt Complete Streets, a program that factors bicyclists and pedestrians into road projects. Under Gov. Walker’s budget, it would be eliminated.

 The Wisconsin Bike Fed, or WBF, says the move would take the state in the wrong direction.

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Dozens of faith leaders in Wisconsin are outraged with the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance. It decided to increase prison spending in the next state budget by $5 million, in order to add capacity.

THEDIGITELMYR, FLICKR

Wisconsin lawmakers sink their teeth this week into some of the more divisive portions of Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget. One is how to pay for transportation.

Walker doesn’t want to raise taxes to pay for the state’s transportation needs. So one tool he uses is bonding. His transportation secretary Mark Gottlieb had recommended a hike in the gas tax. But Gottlieb found himself pitching Walker’s plan to the Legislature’s joint finance committee.

Wisconsin's State Capitol
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More marathon sessions are expected in Madison. The Legislature’s Joint Finance committee is moving into its final week of budget deliberations.

Gov. Walker has indicated he wants his budget passed quickly, and several huge items remain.

One big lingering matter is Wisconsin’s transportation budget for the next two years. JR Ross covers state government for the online news magazine wispolitics.com. He says the Joint Finance Committee must decide how to fund highway projects.

Wisconsin's State Capitol
Ann Althouse, Flickr

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, better known as WEDC, is in the limelight once again. 

State lawmakers in 2011 created the public private agency that replaced the Department of Commerce. Back then, the Walker administration argued that WEDC would be more efficient and create more jobs. However, since its inception the agency has been plagued by problems of job creation and retention and accountability to name a few. On Thursday, the state’s budget committee tackled how to move forward with WEDC.

Ian Freimuth / Flickr

While several high profile and controversial measures in the Governor’s proposed budget have worked their way through the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, other parts of the budget are still up for debate.

One such issue is a measure that would cap the amount of money available through Wisconsin’s Historic Tax Credits program, which provides incentives for builders and developers to rehabilitate historic buildings.

FRANK JUAREZ / FLICKR

The Milwaukee School Board will hold its first meeting Thursday since the Legislature’s budget committee approved several items that could greatly impact MPS. Perhaps the biggest would be the creation of a Recovery School District. 

It would give an independent commissioner oversight over failing MPS schools. At Thursday night’s school board meeting, members are expected to discuss giving the MPS superintendent similar powers.

Milwaukee School Board member Larry Miller says the state budget language stunned him.

Althouse

The Legislature's budget committee on Wednesday morning undid Gov. Walker's cut to K-12 schools while approving an expansion of the state's voucher school program.  

The Joint Finance committee worked into the night and restored all of the $127 million cut the governor had proposed for the first year of the two-year budget.

In addition, the panel approved a measure that would allow $100 per student in funding for the second year of the budget.

Marzky Ragsac Jr., Fotolia

Hot-button issues came before the Legislature’s Joint Finance committee on Tuesday. Many votes fell along party lines, with Republicans approving items in Gov. Walker’s budget and Democrats resisting, unsuccessfully.

The committee approved one of Gov. Walker’s proposals that would require certain residents seeking unemployment benefits, food stamps or Medicaid coverage to be tested for substance use. Those who fail could keep their benefits if they enrolled in taxpayer-funded treatment.

State Rep. Dale Kooyenga explained his support for the plan.

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