Tiffany frustrated budget committee shut out of negotiations on overdue state budgetSubmitted: 07/28/2017
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Tiffany frustrated budget committee shut out of negotiations on overdue state budget
WAUSAU - Northern Wisconsin Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) expressed disappointment Friday about the Joint Finance Committee's lack of involvement in talks on the state budget, which is already almost one month late.

"Discussions have moved simply to the leadership level for about the last month. I do not like that," Tiffany said. "It should be going through the committee."

Tiffany is a member of the Joint Finance Committee, which generally approves the two-year state budget before sending it to the full legislature.

He said the budget is "pretty much at a standstill at this point."

The biggest slowdowns are over transportation funding and taxes. The state Senate and Assembly, both controlled by Republicans, have differing views on how to balance the state ledger. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) have largely taken up negotiations, bypassing the Joint Finance Committee.

"[It's] just two people that are making the decisions. It should be the committee process that decides this," Tiffany said. "I'm hoping that Joint Finance will be reconvening soon so we can finish our part of the job."

The state's biennium ended June 30. Spending levels from the past biennium continue until a new budget is passed.

"[Having a late budget] is not an uncommon thing," said Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk), another member of the Joint Finance Committee. "I don't think it's a bad thing."

While not uncommon, late budgets are much less common when one party controls the entire statehouse, as Republicans do now.

Felzkowski believes this week's announcement of a deal to bring electronics manufacturer Foxconn to Wisconsin will help speed the budget process.

"[The Foxconn deal] is going to affect our budget," she said. "If we're going to be doing these kinds of tax credits, and looking at infrastructure, and where we're going with all of this, we're going to have to look at both of these as a package."

Walker is asking the legislature to pass $3 billion in tax breaks as an incentive to bring Foxconn to the state. The move would create about 13,000 direct jobs.

"I think this will help move the budget process forward," Gov. Scott Walker said at a stop Friday in Wausau.

Like Felzkowski, he sees the Foxconn deal working in tandem with the state budget.

"I would imagine in the next couple of weeks, this special session on this legislation will be done. I don't know which will be before or after, but I would imagine it would be pretty close to parallel [with the budget]," Walker said. "The budget should be completed before the summer is over."

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