WSAW News: State budget likely not to pass by deadline

By: Maria Szatkowski, WSAW News  

PLOVER, Wis. (WSAW) --- Wisconsin's new fiscal year begins July 1, but it is unlikely the state will agree on a new budget by then.

The current budget runs out June 30. Until the new budget is approved, Wisconsin will continue to operate under its previous budget.

Wisconsin is a state where the government will not shut down due to a budget impasse. But lawmakers are feeling the pressure to quickly approve and pass a new state budget.

Democratic State Representative Katrina Shankland, of Stevens Point, is a member of the Joint Finance Committee working to pass the budget.

"The further out it gets, the more uncertainty our local governments and school districts have when it comes to making budgetary decisions, and knowing what their next budget will look like," she said.

Two of the main issues lawmakers are struggling to agree on include transportation and education. Shankland said the Democratic Party is working to come to an agreement over school finances.

"Last Thursday, my democratic colleagues and I introduced our own school financing plan to make sure that we invest in our kids without raising taxes, and that's something that we really believe in,"' she said about the education issue.

Republican State Senator Patrick Testin, also of Stevens Point, said fixing Wisconsin's roads is a priority. But he doesn't believe the addition of toll roads for this budget is the answer.

"For me, I think that's more of a long-term solution, which obviously we need to get there. Short term, that's probably not going to solve our issues right now," said Testin.

Shankland agrees with Testin, and believes the addition of toll roads may not fully solve the problem with Wisconsin's roads.

Ed Miller is a political science professor and University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and said the state wouldn't be having so many budget issues had it accepted previous federal help.

"The state of Wisconsin could be in a much better shape if we had accepted several federal grant programs. We turned down moldable federal grant programs over the years, and that was a lot of money," Miller said.

Both Shankland and Testin say they hope to see the budget pass by mid-July or early August. Testin remains optimistic.

"I think we're 90% there. It's just, we're at the point where we're trying to get the finishing touches, and I think we'll get there," he said.

Wisconsin is in a much better state than neighboring Illinois, where a state budget has not passed in three years.