- Associated Press - Friday, April 7, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Text messages between Gov. Scott Walker and fellow Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos released Friday reveal private tensions over the state budget, adding another layer to increasingly terse inter-party bickering over the spending plan.

Copies of the messages were released Friday by the governor’s office to The Associated Press and other news outlets under the open records law. They come a day after Vos and other GOP legislative leaders publicly rejected Walker’s plan for roads funding and tossed 83 policy items from his two-year spending plan, a rare move that hasn’t happened in at least 24 years.

Republicans control state government with their largest majorities in the Legislature in decades and Walker is preparing for a likely run at a third term next year. But they are battling over Walker’s budget proposal.

The biggest flash point is Walker’s proposal to borrow half a billion dollars and delay construction projects to plug a $1 billion transportation funding shortfall.

That was what spurred a testy text message exchange between Vos and Walker.

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee was holding a briefing on March 29, taking testimony from Walker’s new Department of Transportation secretary about the governor’s road-funding plan.

During the briefing, Walker tweeted that he had ruled out a gas tax increase to pay for roads - even though in the past he had said he’d consider it if a corresponding amount of other taxes were cut. Vos and other Assembly Republicans have been advocating for the gas tax and fee increases to be considered.

After seeing the Walker tweet, Vos texted the governor and said: “FYI. The more your staff keeps injecting themselves into the JFC process the more difficult you will make it. Lobbying by Twitter isn’t going to work here.”

Walker responded: “That’s not staff. That’s me. Your members ran ads saying they were against my cuts to education so I’m assuming they will support my increases.”

Walker is proposing raising K-12 aid by $649 million. Vos responded by saying there was “no doubt” Republicans would support higher education funding, but also said “I’m not sure we can afford what you propose to give.”

Walker tells Vos that he’s willing to work with him on putting more money into transportation.

“I’m more than willing to sit down with you so we can work out a deal,” Vos responds. He later accuses Walker of not involving Republican lawmakers in the budget-writing process, saying that makes it difficult to “rubber stamp it.”

Walker responds, “Unlike the last budget where we met with nearly every member in advance & got trashed.”

Both Vos and Walker said Friday that despite the testy exchanges, they have a strong relationship.

“I am probably one of Gov. Walker’s top allies,” Vos said. The texts show that their relationship is so strong Vos can push back when he sees something from Walker he doesn’t like, Vos said.

Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson said in a statement that they agree on almost everything and where they don’t agree they will work out a solution.


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer

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