The Joint Finance Committee completed their budget work on Sept. 6. All the budget motions passed by JFC were incorporated into a Substitute Amendment 1 to Assembly Bill 64, which replaces the entire original budget bill (Assembly Bill 64). The Assembly passed the budget on Sept. 13, sending it over to the Senate. At the time of this writing, the Senate is scheduled to take up the budget bill today, Friday Sept. 15.
The Assembly passed the budget in a 57-39 vote after nearly 11 hours of debate on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Reps. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha), Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), Robert Gannon (R-West Bend), Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake), and Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) were the only Republicans to vote no.
Over the 11 hours, Assembly Democrats offered 19 wide-ranging amendments with no success. The only amendment to pass was Assembly Amendment 20 – a “technical amendment” introduced by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and JFC Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette). Among several items, Amendment 20 added $2.5 million for reimbursement to ambulatory surgery centers and provided $1.1 million to the Department of Justice for overtime for the Criminal Investigation agents.
On Tuesday night, Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said Senate Republicans were still lacking votes to pass the budget in the Senate, citing disagreements in the caucus over transportation and the overall spending level. Senate Republicans hold a 20-13 majority in the Senate, so the Majority Leader can only have three members voting “no” to pass the budget. As of Thursday, Sens. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon), Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), and Stephen Nass’s (R-Whitewater) votes were in limbo. Despite the uncertainty over having enough votes, the Senate is scheduled to meet on the budget today.
Update (12:50 p.m.): The Senate met on the floor at 12:30 today and is currently debating the budget. Fitzgerald said he now has the votes to pass the budget.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has expressed resistance to making any more changes to the budget for those Senators who are still holdouts. Gov. Scott Walker has said he remains open to amendments, including additional transportation reforms or moving up the start date of prevailing wage.
While additional changes to the budget remain a possibly, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo on the state’s general fund for the biennium under the pending 2017-19 budget and the Foxconn legislation. At the end of the second year of the biennium, the general fund will end with a gross balance of $196 million.
Projecting out to the next biennium, LFB estimates for 2019-21, the structural deficit would be $991 million. The structural deficit is a projection based on the 2017-19 appropriations and revenues, with no new adjustments. The $991 million structural deficit is the second smallest since the 1999-2001 biennium. Last biennium was the smallest at $210 million and in 2013-15 there was a $146 million surplus.
After the Senate passes the budget, and assuming they make no additional changes, the legislature will send the final product to the governor. Walker may use his line-item veto power to delete specific provisions of the bill. Walker has not specifically expressed any vetoes on JFC’s actions thus far, but only time will tell what provisions will and will not make it into the final signed version of the 2017-19 state budget.
Update Sept. 18: Sens. Kapenga, Stroebel, and Nass voted yes on the budget, as part of an agreement with Walker that he veto certain elements, including the prevailing wage repeal effective date and Public Finance Authority provisions. The Senate passed the budget Friday night 19-14, with Sen. Craig the only Republican voting no.