Doyle, lawmakers discuss shortfallMADISON — Gov. Jim Doyle and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly plan to meet today to discuss the state’s $527 million budget shortfall.
By: By SCOTT BAUER/Associated Press Writer, The Daily Telegram
MADISON — Gov. Jim Doyle and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly plan to meet today to discuss the state’s $527 million budget shortfall.
The meeting could signal a breakthrough in the month-long stalemate to reach a deal. It comes just two days after Doyle returned from an overseas trade mission among reports that legislative leaders were close to reaching agreement but awaited Doyle’s approval.
Doyle and Decker, both Democrats, are set to be joined by Republican Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, said Decker’s spokeswoman Carrie Lynch.
Several key issues are at play in trying to plug the shortfall blamed on a weakening economy.
They include whether to delay a $125 million payment of state aid to schools, how much to take from refinancing bonds from tobacco settlement payments and how much to take from the state’s transportation fund to be replaced with increased borrowing.
A proposed new hospital tax, supported by the hospitals, business groups, Doyle and Democrats but fiercely opposed by Republicans, no longer appears to be under consideration.
Doyle spokeswoman Jessica Erickson downplayed the significance of the meeting, saying it was just one of several at various levels that have been held throughout the budget negotiation process.
A spokesman for Huebsch did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike reacted angrily Wednesday to the possibility that the Great Lakes compact, a multistate deal to protect Great Lakes water, may be included in the budget bill as a way to attract votes.
“There is absolutely no reason to lump this extremely important and popular legislation in with budget,” said Assembly Minority Leader Jim Kreuser, D-Kenosha, in a statement. “Forcing members to vote for budget fixes they have no desire to support in order to champion the long-term health of our greatest resources is nothing short of coercion.”
“Now that we finally have an agreed compromise that allows us to move forward on this critical matter, we risk snatching defeat from the jaws of victory once again,” said Rep. Gary Sherman, D-Port Wing. “The future of the Great Lakes is too important to be used as leverage to get votes for passage of an unpopular budget repair compromise.
Kreuser said the only part of any budget deal that currently has support from all those involved is protecting transportation funding from being cut.
Two Republican senators, Mike Ellis of Neenah and Robert Cowles of Green Bay, sent a letter to Huebsch and Decker saying combining the compact with the budget was a bad idea and a cynical ploy.