- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republicans showed more division over the final major pieces needed to reach a deal on the state budget Wednesday, with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos throwing out the possibility of delaying more than $1 billion in highway projects.

A Republican senator also said he won’t vote for anything that doesn’t also include a repeal of Wisconsin’s prevailing wage requirement supported by unions. And a majority of Republican senators want to drop a financing deal for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena from the budget, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, further complicating efforts for an overall deal on the two-year, $70 billion spending plan.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker made a brief appearance in the Capitol on Wednesday for a Building Commission meeting but did not take questions. Walker, a likely presidential candidate, was in Atlanta and Orlando earlier in the week, and was headed to North Carolina on Friday and Iowa on Saturday. Next week he departs for a 7-day trade mission to Canada.

Hanging over the stalemate to reach a budget deal is Walker’s timeline for announcing his presidential plans. Walker has said he won’t announce his expected candidacy until after he signs the budget, which doesn’t appear likely to happen until late June or even early July.

The Legislature’s budget-writing committee intended to get done on Friday, but with no deals on transportation funding, the Bucks arena or prevailing wage in sight, the panel has yet to schedule its final meeting. Once it approves the budget, the Senate and Assembly must also pass it.

Then it goes to Walker, who has expansive veto power.

Walker has repeatedly said he wouldn’t agree to raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees to pay for state highway projects. His budget relied on $1.3 billion in new borrowing, which fellow Republicans have balked at as too large.

Vos, who has supported a vehicle registration fee, said Wednesday that doing away with all borrowing was being discussed. That would delay projects all across the state including the Zoo Interchange near Milwaukee and expansion of the I-39/90 corridor in south-central Wisconsin to the Illinois border.

“Maybe there should be no new bonding,” Vos told reporters after a meeting of the Assembly Rules Committee. “Maybe that’s one option. If we’re not going to create any new revenues, maybe we have no new bonding.”

Other Republican lawmakers have discussed lowering the amount of borrowing by between $300 million and $800 million.

Walker’s spokeswoman. Laurel Patrick, defended his proposal as tight but adequate to meet the state’s needs.

“The total level of bonding in the governor’s budget is at the lowest level in years,” Patrick said. “It authorizes enough bonding to continue work on Wisconsin’s transportation projects, ensuring they are funded and on time.

Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, said only that he was aware that the idea of eliminating all borrowing for roads was being discussed.

Republicans are also grappling with whether to repeal or just tweak the prevailing wage law. That law requires workers on certain public projects to be paid a wage based on a complex formula that critics say inflates their pay because of an over-reliance on union salaries.

State Sen. Duey Stroebel, a Republican from Cedarburg, issued a press release Wednesday saying he won’t vote for the budget unless a prevailing wage repeal for local units of government is included. Republicans hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate, which means the GOP can afford to lose only two votes and still have enough to pass it.

As for the Bucks stadium, Vos said he had no idea whether the funding plan that has yet to be made public would be a part of the budget or taken out and voted on separately.

“I don’t think the process is anywhere near as important as the goal that we have of trying to keep somebody who is good for Wisconsin in our state,” Vos said. “I’m really focused on the merits, not the process.”


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP



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