You may be wondering what happened to our issues in the state budget.
The answer is nothing yet. The budget is still working its way through the legislative process. It remains in the Joint Committee on Finance, which is taking it up piece by piece. The committee started working on the budget last week and they will probably keep at it until Memorial Day.
To recap, Governor Scott Walker introduced his two-year 2015-2017 budget in early February. In that budget he would repeal the Complete Streets law, cut Transportation Alternatives Program funding by $2 million or 14%, and freeze purchases under the Stewardship Fund, which is used in part to improve state trails.
After introduction the budget was referred to the Joint Committee on Finance, which is made up of 8 members from each house or 16 total members. Because the Republicans control both houses they get to appoint 12 of the 16 members.
As is common practice the committee took the budget out for several public hearings around the state and the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyzed the governor’s proposals in detail.
Now, using papers on each item prepared by the Fiscal Bureau, the committee is in the midst of painstakingly reviewing the budget item by item.
There is no telling when our issues might come up, but the general consensus among Capitol insiders is that they will be voted on late in the process, possibly not until almost Memorial Day. The reason for that is that the transportation budget, where two of our issues are embedded, is especially controversial. According to a recent commission study the DOT is running $680 million in the red every year.
Having said that, we got a scare this week when we thought the TAP vote was going to occur on Wednesday. We had an Action Alert all primed and ready to go when we found out that the issue had been pulled from the agenda. All of which is to say, there’s little that is predictable about this process. So, if we pull a false alarm at some point please don’t be too hard on us.
Right now everyone is waiting for new budget projections to come from the Fiscal Bureau on May 4th. It’s expected that the new numbers will be somewhat better than those the governor had to work with while he was putting his budget together early this year. With the new projections in hand, the committee can decide how much they think they can add back to the general fund, where Stewardship is housed, and to the transportation fund, where TAP and Complete Streets reside.