Final state budget hearing held in Marinette

The Wisconsin Legislature's Joint Finance Committee holds a public hearing on the 2017-19 state budget April 21, 2017, at Marinette High School. (WLUK/Courtney Ryan)

MARINETTE (WLUK) -- The public is getting its last big chance to weigh in on the two-year state budget.

Friday's hearing at Marinette High School was the last of six held around the state this month by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.

Ahead of the public budget hearing, Republicans and Democrats said the toughest part about the budget will be coming to an agreement on what to do about transportation.

"Transportation is going to be the biggest challenge and everything is on the table right now," said State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills).

The Joint Finance Committee is looking to tackle a nearly $1 billion shortfall to the transportation budget, that money is used for road projects throughout the state.

"We all know that we need to have a long term fix and a short term fix as well," explained State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).

Earlier this month, the committee announced it would start over on the transportation part of the Governor's proposed budget.

However, that was before the Governor announced he would allocate another $100 million toward transportation.

"We can't let those major highways not be completed because it is just going to cost us more, delays will cost more, repairs will cost more," explained Darling.

"Hopefully we come up with a fair way to pay for the roads, but in the meantime the Governor is either going to have to bit the bullet and realize that we will have to raise a gas tax or fees," added Erpenbach.

The Governor has said he would veto any budget with a gas tax increase, something he reiterated at a stop in Freedom Friday.

"To me, I don't think we need raise a gas tax and I don't see a broad base vehicle registration fee, and I don't hear anyone talking about that," the Governor said.

Walker has said a priority in the budget is making sure the $649 million in K-12 education investments isn't cut.

"I don't see us going back on the Governor's commitment to K-12 education," said State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette).

"We heard from schools that this will help them stay afloat, and they're concerned that the commitment isn't going to be there in two years, and this is just more of a re-election budget," explained State Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh).

Gov. Scott Walker introduced his budget proposal in a speech in February. The next step is for the Joint Finance Committee to hammer out details and make changes. Then it goes to the Senate and Assembly, which must pass identical versions. Walker has final say on the budget.

Another topic the committee is debating is on funding for the UW-System.

There is disagreement on whether to end the current tuition freeze.

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