Assembly Road Show Rolls On While Budget Work Waits

MacIver News Service | June 8, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

Madison, Wis…] Memo from the Senate to Assembly leadership: Get off the road and back down to work.

Sen. Leah Vukmir pressed that message again on Thursday – Two days after Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) sent authors of the Assembly Republican education plan out on the road to sell the proposal to constituents.

Vukmir and her Senate Republican colleagues assert the ed plan – which would trim $70 million from Gov. Scott Walker’s generous K-12 spending package while raising revenue limits for lower-spending districts – say it’s off the mark.

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“So rather than go off and travel the state we have decided to stay in Madison and continue to do our work,” Vukmir told MacIver News Service Thursday on the Mark Belling Late Afternoon Show on NewsTalk 1130 WISN.

Assembly Republican leaders were in Merrill, where they “illustrated the positive impact of their education budget proposal” at a press conference in the school district office.

“The way we fund schools largely hasn’t changed since 1993 when frugal districts were locked into low levy limits,” said John Nygren (R-Marinette) in a press release. “Since then, these limits have created an uneven playing field for low-spending school districts struggling to complete with high-spenders to hire quality teachers.”

Nygren, co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee and co-author of the proposal, asserts the Assembly Republican plan “makes education funding more sustainable, equitable and effective, all while decreasing property taxes.”

Vukmir, a Brookfield Republican, said the Assembly GOP plan picks winners and losers. Tinkering with the funding formula can have a negative impact on taxpayers throughout the system, she said.

While the Assembly road show went on, Senate Republicans again met in caucus and talked about the budget and “where the Senate is versus the Assembly,” Vukmir said.

Vos, meanwhile, was in Washington, D.C. meeting with President Trump and members of the administration to talk transportation investment at an infrastructure summit. Trump is big on a federal cash infusion for a broad infrastructure initiative. Vos told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the Trump administration is receptive to loosening federal transportation regulations that would help free up funds in the states.

But the road trips cost another day of budget-making as Wisconsin moved closer to the end of the current biennial budget – June 30.

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The Joint Finance Committee took off another day of public budget work while the two houses remain at a standstill on key issues – education and transportation at the top of that list.

Vukmir reiterated that the Senate’s budget position is much closer to Walker’s proposed blueprint than to the Assembly’s ideas. There remains a possibility that the two houses could present competing plans.

“We in the Senate are going to continue to do our work and hopefully the Assembly will come back and realize that it’s very important that we work together,” she said.

“I hope we all get together really soon because we had two days of JFC meetings that were called off and that puts us behind a little bit, and that’s not where I think our constituents want us to be. They want us to get this work done. They want us to finish our budget and, frankly, that’s our job,” the senator said.