Out of Sync: Wisconsin Lawmakers Still in Search of Agreement on Major Components of State Budget

Friday, June 23, 2017 at 10:09 AM by

After several weeks of deliberating, Wisconsin lawmakers have settled large chunks of the state budget but are still working out disagreements in the areas of K-12 education, transportation finance, and taxes.

In the meantime, Assembly Republicans have released their own version of a K-12 education budget. A new summary by the Wisconsin Budget Project compares the Assembly version to Governor Walker’s proposed education budget, highlighting the areas in which the two versions are different. The Assembly version allocates about $90 million less in state funding overall to K-12 schools and would result in slightly higher taxes for property owners compared to the Governor’s budget. Education advocates generally favor the Governor’s budget over the Assembly’s version.

In an effort to come to agreement, Assembly and Senate leaders have been meeting behind closed doors to discuss the education budget, and news reports indicate they are close to reaching an agreement.

On Thursday, Democrats released their own plan, which would allocate significantly more funding to schools. However, there are only four Democrats on the 16-member Joint Finance Committee, so they are at an extreme disadvantage in getting their ideas incorporated into the budget bill.

There is less evidence that lawmakers have made progress towards an agreement in transportation finance. Lawmakers have very different opinions on the best way to handle the shortfall in the state’s Transportation Fund, a shortfall that has its roots in a years-long freeze on the gas tax. Options under consideration by lawmakers include increasing the gas tax, delaying planned highway projects, increasing borrowing, taking money from the state’s General Fund, and seeking other revenue sources such as toll roads.

In theory, the budget is supposed to be finalized by July 1, because that’s when the revenue and spending levels designated by the new budget are set to go into effect. But it’s not unusual for the budget process to drag out longer, with deliberations extending into the fall. If the budget is late – as it seems this budget will be – spending can continue at the level in the previous budget until the new budget is signed.

For more information on the proposals for the education budget, go to Competing Proposals for Wisconsin Schools: A Comparison of the Governor’s and the Assembly’s Education Budgets. Also, take a look at the page on our website that focuses on issues related to Wisconsin’s 2017-19 budget.

Tamarine Cornelius

One Response to “Out of Sync: Wisconsin Lawmakers Still in Search of Agreement on Major Components of State Budget”

  1. […] to devote to two of voters’ three highest priorities: K-12 schools and roads. (Read more: Out of Sync: Wisconsin Lawmakers Still in Search of Agreement on Major Components of State Budget.) And while state lawmakers have already settled what Wisconsin’s health care budget should look […]