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Fitz budget

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau

What looked like a fast-approaching end to the showdown on the state budget, now more than 10 weeks past due, was thrown into question Tuesday, as Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald acknowledged he lacks Senate support to pass the latest version.

The state Assembly is poised Wednesday to hold a marathon session, lasting as long as 12 hours, on the budget bill.

The Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee passed that budget last week, signaling to many that it was on course for swift passage. Gov. Scott Walker has said he expects to sign the budget by the official end of summer, which is Sept. 22.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters Tuesday that Senate Republicans, of which there are 20, now have “15 or more” votes to pass the Joint Finance Committee-approved budget.

Seventeen votes are needed for passage in the 33-member Senate, assuming none of the 13 Democrats vote in favor.

The Republican Senate holdouts on the budget have what Fitzgerald described as a range of objections. They include overall spending levels in the $76 billion budget and its prescriptions for transportation, which has been the most contentious matter.

“It’s a mixed bag of issues,” Fitzgerald said.

Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, said Tuesday night that he’s among the holdouts.

“The goal line is in sight, but there’s got to be some additional transportation reforms,” Kapenga said. “There’s nothing in the current budget, the way it’s drafted, that will really get us closer to fixing the DOT.”

Kapenga sponsored a bill this session that calls for a new audit of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and for what he and other supporters call measures to make the department more efficient, such as expanding the ways it can bring construction projects to completion.

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Allouez, asked Tuesday about his stance on the budget, said: “I don’t have any comment on that right now.”

Spokespersons for Sens. Stephen Nass, R-Whitewater, and Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, also confirmed they are not yet “yes” votes.

Nass spokesman Mike Mikalsen said the senator wants to see a full repeal of the state’s prevailing wage requirement take effect Jan. 1. Under the Joint Finance Committee budget, that repeal would take effect in September 2018.

Fitzgerald said he hopes to marshal the Senate votes to pass the budget this Friday.

“I think the senators want to get the budget done, and I think there’s a willingness to kind of work with leadership to make that happen,” he said.

The budget has been overdue since July 1, when the 2017-18 fiscal year began. Since then, state agencies have operated at spending levels from the previous year.


Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.