State Legislature agrees on little heading into 2014
MADISON — Republicans who control the Wisconsin state Senate and Assembly aren't in agreement on a myriad of issues facing the Legislature in 2014, setting up a session that may be marked more by what doesn't get done that what does.
Caught in between the two chambers are anti-abortion bills, changes to the Common Core academic standards and proposals cracking down on drunken driving. And with lawmakers itching to get done by mid-March so they can hit the campaign trail, there's not a lot of time to work out their differences.
One big unknown heading into the 2014 session is just how rosy the state's revenue estimates will be. The latest figures are set to come out in mid-January, and at least for now there's no clear signal from Gov. Scott Walker or legislative leaders as to what they would do with any surplus.
In 2013, Walker proposed — and the Legislature passed — a $650 million income tax cut as well as a $100 million property tax cut. Walker, who recently floated doing away with the state income tax, is eyeing changes for 2015 that he can talk about during his re-election campaign. He isn't saying much about what legislative priorities he has in 2014.
"We've gotten most of what we wanted done in the fall," Walker said in a December interview.
Walker could always unveil another tax cut once the revenue numbers are released. But Republican Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said instead of cutting taxes, there will be a push among his members not to save any excess money to have it available for the next two-year budget that's proposed in 2015. Fitzgerald said Senate Republicans may also want to use the money on one-time infrastructure projects.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he wanted to explore a sales tax holiday in August for certain back-to-school supplies and in November, just before the election, for Energy Star appliances. But Fitzgerald said he wasn't sold on that, saying some Senate Republicans view it as a gimmick.