Republicans show few signs of progress on Wisconsin budget

The Wisconsin State Capitol, picture taken on June 6, 2017 (WLUK/Dave Duchan)

MADISON (AP) -- Wisconsin Republican legislative leaders showed no signs of progress on reaching a state budget deal following a closed-door meeting with Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos left the hour-long meeting saying he's "accepted the reality of the world" that Walker and Senate Republicans won't go for any gas tax or vehicle fee increases to pay for roads. Assembly Republicans have long called for revenue increases to be part of any plan to plug a $1 billion road-funding gap.

But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald took to conservative talk radio to say Vos's solution not to increase spending on roads is a "nonstarter."

Walker and fellow Republicans have been unable to come together on a new $76 billion, two-year spending plan, primarily because they can't agree on the best way to pay for roads. The disagreement has left Wisconsin as one of just three states with a July 1 deadline that has not passed a budget. Current spending levels will continue during the stalemate.

Vos said without a way to pay for additional borrowing for roads, the only option left is to hold the transportation budget flat. He said that's not his preferred option, given that it would slow down or stop work on major interstate projects in southeastern Wisconsin. But Vos stressed that the Assembly won't accept additional borrowing without a way to pay for it.

"I have accepted the reality that they don't want to raise revenue," Vos said of the Senate and Walker. "They need to accept the reality that we're not going to borrow and spend. We could be together fairly quickly if everybody can accept everybody else's reality."

Fitzgerald shot down Vos's idea in an interview on WISN-AM. Fitzgerald said the level of borrowing Walker is proposing is "well within reason of what would be considered responsible" and holding funding flat is "just a non-starter and will continue to be a non-starter."

Fitzgerald and other Republicans have expressed concern about how not raising spending on roads would result in ongoing interstate projects in southeastern Wisconsin being severely delayed or put on hold.

A spokesman for Walker did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the meeting went.

Vos said he hoped to meet with Fitzgerald and Walker again next week.

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