Despite a decade of control, Assembly and Senate Republicans have a history of squabbling and missing budget deadlines.
While Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) is prepared for a pandemic-related delay in passing a state budget, he also believes he and his colleagues will see the return of a non-pandemic reason the state’s two-year spending plan will likely miss a June 30 deadline for adoption: Republicans in disarray.
“Well, the real delay is gonna be internal arguments between the Senate Republican caucus and the Assembly Republican caucus,” said Goyke, a member of the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.
“They don’t really like each other,” he said in remarks on The Up North Podcast, a program on Devil Radio 92.7 in Madison that is not affiliated with UpNorthNews or its parent company. “They may pose for pictures together, but they don’t really like each other.”
Wisconsin’s fiscal year begins July 1, but the biennial budgets have often been delayed. Rather than a government shutdown, Wisconsin simply continues under the previous budget levels until a new one is passed and signed into law. From 1977 to 2013, there were nine budgets passed on time and 11 that were late, according to a 2015 Wisconsin State Journal article; but all of those late budgets involved split control of state government.
In 2015, Republicans controlled the Assembly, the Senate, and the governor’s office but did not adopt a final budget until July—a first for a budget cycle with single-party control.
It turned out to be a dress rehearsal for 2017 when Assembly and Senate Republicans and then-Gov. Scott Walker had a lengthy public dispute over how to pay for the state’s lengthy list of road woes. Republicans did not reach an agreement among themselves until September. In 2018, Gov. Tony Evers defeated Walker in part over the deteriorating condition of the state’s transportation infrastructure, bringing the word “Scott-holes” into the political lexicon that year.
Goyke said there are two more reasons the 2021 budget session will likely go into overtime. One is that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau makes its projections based on actual tax collections, and those collections are delayed about a month as the Internal Revenue Service moved the usual April 15 tax deadline to May 17.
“And then the other thing,” Goyke said, “is the federal [stimulus] money that we have received. There’s possibly going to be a delay, Republicans waiting to hear what the governor is proposing with that.”
Republicans have been demanding for months that Evers surrender control of determining how federal stimulus and coronavirus relief funds will be spent. Evers had sole control in 2020 over nearly $2 billion in federal aid provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. And Evers shows no signs of changing the way he will determine the destination for will come from the American Rescue Plan that passed Congress in January.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) has said his caucus may end up shortchanging the budget by an amount that forces Evers into steering funds into the holes they would create.
That fight may be over a smaller but still significant amount. Evers was informed Monday that Wisconsin will receive $700 million less than initially expected and it will arrive in two payments a year apart. The Congressional Research Office initially estimated Wisconsin would receive $3.2 billion, but the Treasury Department now says the state will receive $2.5 billion.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. UpNorthNews Managing Editor Pat Kreitlow is a co-host of The Up North Podcast.