Changes to a $3 billion incentive plan for electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group, a potential new $100 fee for electric vehicle owners and tax cuts that could benefit Wisconsin businesses are all teed up for consideration as the Legislature's budget committee hopes to complete its work this week.
The Joint Finance Committee was scheduled to meet on Tuesday, with the goal of finally ending a stalemate that's delayed passage of the budget for two months. Getting to that point will require Republicans who control both the Senate and Assembly finally agreeing on how to plug a $1 billion funding gap in transportation, amid a myriad of other outstanding issues that have stalled passage of the two-year spending plan.
Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders have sent mixed signals about how close they are to finally bridging their differences, but they all say they want to get the budget done by the middle of the month. It was due July 1 and delays pose problems with school districts left in limbo over how much aid they're going to get as the work on completing their budgets.
Amid the budget debate, lawmakers are also eyeing changes to the Foxconn incentive bill that passed the Assembly last month. Republican senators have talked about their desire to put deadlines on the Taiwanese company for job creation, but they have not said exactly what changes they will propose.
Foxconn signed a deal with Wisconsin under which it would receive $2.85 billion in cash payments if it invests $10 billion in the state and employs 13,000 people. The company has said it plans to begin with hiring 3,000 people and opening a plant in southeastern Wisconsin near the Illinois border in 2020.
The budget-writing committee hoped to finalize its work by Wednesday, allowing the Senate and Assembly to vote on the $76 billion spending package later this month. Key issues still remaining for the committee to vote on starting Tuesday include:
— Whether to impose a new fee on electric and hybrid vehicle owners on top of the $75 all vehicle owners pay now. A roughly $100 fee would generate about $8 million in annual payments on $100 million in bonding for road projects. Walker is supportive of the idea, even though he's promised to veto any budget that raises the gas tax and he's previously spoken out against fee increases.
— How aggressively to move forward with instituting toll roads in Wisconsin, a change that would take years and require federal approval.
— How much to borrow for roads. Proposals discussed have ranged from $400 million to $850 million. Walker and legislative Republicans have been unable to agree on an amount, with Assembly leaders saying revenue increases have to be considered along with additional borrowing. Imposing the electric vehicle fee could be part of the solution to reach a deal.
— How much to reduce the personal property tax, paid primarily by businesses on equipment, furniture and other property they own. Walker proposed a small personal income tax cut, but lawmakers have indicated they're not going to do that.
— Whether to go along with Walker's plan to hire additional auditors at the Revenue Department, a move that's been met with resistance from the state's business community.
— Whether to go along with Walker's call, rejected in the last budget, to limit a tax credit for historic preservation projects to $10 million a year.
— What wild cards will be slipped into the budget at the last minute in a final catch-all vote, which two years ago included a move, subsequently undone, to gut the state's open records law. It's also been used in attempts to legalize bail bondsmen and cut income taxes for private-school tuition. Leaders of the committee have sent mixed signals about whether the secretive motion will be used again this year.