Gov. Walker offers concession and new idea to end state budget i - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Gov. Walker offers concession and new idea to end state budget impasse

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MADISON (WKOW) -- With the Republican-led legislature well on its way to providing Wisconsin with its longest state budget impasse since 2007, Gov. Scott Walker offered an olive branch Thursday in an attempt to end the stalemate.

Gov. Walker sent a letter to Assembly and Senate leaders, indicating he would be willing to drop his initial request of $500 million for state transportation borrowing - down to $300 million.

"Lowering bonding by $200 million is a win for Assembly leadership who have voiced their desire to reduce bonding for transportation projects, wrote Gov. Walker.

Senate GOP leaders want to combine that $300 million with additional general purpose fund dollars.

"So, if we can sort of bring that number down, maybe from 850 (million) to 750 (million), then we'll go back to the Assembly to see if that's something they think is palatable," said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

On May 10, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos balked at bonding even $300 or $400 million for transportation.

"I can promise you right now, that's not gonna happen," said Speaker Vos at the time.

But something has to give, as the Governor and Senate Republicans oppose Assembly Republicans and their desire to raise taxes in order to close the state's nearly $1 billion transportation deficit.

By 2020, Wisconsin is projected to be spending 25 cents of every transportation dollar on debt.

"I scratch my head because, as a businessman, I don't use debt to pay my current bills. I try to use revenues," said James L. Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Construction, a prominent road building company that supports raising new revenues.

But Governor Walker suggests that won't be necessary.

Along with reducing the level of bonding, Gov. Walker also put forth an idea that not only prevents project delays, but could increase the number of projects through something he calls "contingency bonding."

"Interstate 94 North/South, the Zoo Interchange and Interstate 94 East/West are high profile projects in southeastern Wisconsin. We propose contingency bonding that would be linked to additional federal funding for mega projects. Wisconsin is well positioned to qualify for additional federal funding to help support mega projects," wrote Gov. Walker.

Gov. Walker suggests appealing to the federal government for $341 million in highway funds, roughly ten times more than the state receives in a normal year.

That detail was revealed in a memo sent to Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

"I don't know if that can happen," said Sen. Fitzgerald. "I mean, that's almost a discussion that has to happen with the feds."

Meanwhile, Democrats are slamming the Governor's latest attempt to reach an agreement.

"Of all the bizarre ideas being discussed by Republicans in their secret budget meetings, this latest proposal from Gov. Walker is the most irresponsible," wrote Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. "Rather than begging for a federal bailout, Wisconsin families and businesses want a long-term fix that prioritizes development over debt."

While the negotiations continue, there is still no word from Republican leaders as to when the Joint Finance Committee may meet again to actually continue work on the budget.

Sen. Fitzgerald did indicate his members approve of an agreement made with Assembly leaders over K-12 education funding, saying that will soon be "put to bed."

The last two year budget technically expired June 30, but state government will continue to operate at the same spending levels until the 2017-19 budget is passed.

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