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Fitz (copy)

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau

The state Senate is scheduled to take up the months-overdue state spending plan Friday morning even though its Republican leader is still one vote shy of being able to pass it.

Four Republican senators from conservative counties surrounding Milwaukee on Thursday remained opposed to the 2017-19 state budget Assembly lawmakers passed on Wednesday.

A new state budget to cover spending through 2019 was due on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk on July 1, but Republicans have been at odds for months primarily over how to address a nearly $1 billion shortfall in the state’s pot of money for road projects.

Though state government does not shut down if lawmakers miss their deadline to pass a new state budget, some school district administrators have expressed concern about not knowing exactly how much money they will have from the state and local taxpayers as the delay carries into the new school year.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald needs 17 votes in his caucus of 20 senators to pass the budget, assuming all Senate Democrats vote against the spending plan, but Sens. Dave Craig, R-Town of Vernon, Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, and Duey Stroebel, R-Saukville, as of Thursday remained opposed to supporting the plan.

“We need to be more aggressive — we need to do the things we campaign on,” Stroebel told conservative talk radio show host Mark Belling of WISN Thursday about why the senators are not supporting the budget.

Kapenga, Nass and Stroebel gave Fitzgerald a list of changes to the state budget this week that needed to be made to get their support, including expanding the statewide private school voucher program and prohibiting the University of Wisconsin System from spending taxpayer dollars on training students and staff on how to handle diversity.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday said the list of demands from the senators amounts to a “ransom list.” Vos said the budget-writing process, which includes agreements between the Assembly and Senate that the Legislature’s finance committee put into the state budget bill that lawmakers will vote to approve, is complete and it’s “too late” to ask for other budget provisions.

“For me, the budget process is over,” Vos said. “You don’t have to hold the entire state hostage for your pet projects.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Nass told Fox6 the list of changes the senators want may grow next week if there isn’t a deal on them by this weekend.

Stroebel told Belling on Thursday that the changes are “reasonable” and “defensible,” and reflect priorities the senators campaigned for before being elected to the state senate.

Fitzgerald scheduled a floor session for Friday morning. Spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said the Senate may need to continue its work on Saturday if members aren’t ready to vote on Friday.

Vos said if the Senate passes a different budget bill than what his house passed this week, the Assembly would not be taking up that piece of legislation until October.

“Unfortunately that’s what’ll end up happening and then we’ll end up rejecting those changes. We already have a deal. The deal was very clear,” he said.


Molly Beck covers politics and state government for the Wisconsin State Journal.