Thursday, June 22, 2017

K-12 Funding Negotiations Stalled Over Ed Tech Grant Program

Despite earlier reports that the Joint Finance Committee was on track to vote on K-12 education funding on Thursday, the Committee announced today that they will not meet this week as negotiations continue between Senate and Assembly Republicans.

Committee members have said that one of the sticking points is the proposed $9.2 million grant program to help schools purchase one-to-one computing devices included in the Assembly Republican K-12 plan released a few weeks ago.

Budget committee won't meet this week as laptops, borrowing stall negotiations
·         MATTHEW DeFOUR and MOLLY BECK Wisconsin State Journal
·         29 min ago

Closed-door budget negotiations dragged on Wednesday as Republicans continued to haggle over how to fund education, transportation and tax cuts.

Joint Finance co-chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said after a meeting between GOP leaders of the Assembly and Senate that the two houses have made progress toward agreement on education spending.

One hurdle in reaching agreement, Nygren said, is an Assembly proposal to spend $9.2 million on grants to give schools money to purchase laptop or tablet computers to ninth graders for five school years. He said that is not the only, or biggest, disagreement remaining on K-12 spending.

Assembly Republican leaders said after meeting with their Senate counterparts Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. they they weren't ready to hold a Joint Finance Committee meeting this week. They also acknowledged the committee won't likely wrap up its work next week in time for a July 1 deadline for passing the budget.

"It's going to come down to transportation being the main stumbling block for us moving forward," Nygren said.

Nygren and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Senate Republicans continue to support relying on borrowing to fund transportation, even more than the $500 million proposed by Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Republicans are "solidly against that."

"We've had the same discussion multiple budgets in a row now and I think our position is right now we're going to stop having this reliance on bonding," Nygren said. "We need to come up with a solution to pay our bills rather than continue to borrow on our kids' futures."

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Joint Finance Committee won't meet Thursday, though Nygren said it's possible the committee will meet next week to finalize education and a few other topics where there is no disagreement. Transportation and tax cuts won't likely be resolved before July 1, when the new budget calendar begins.

If a budget isn't signed into law by then, funding for state government will continue at current levels. In 2015 the budget wasn't signed until mid-July, and Vos and Nygren remained hopeful this year's budget would be completed by then.

Vos said he preferred to continue meeting with Senate Republicans to work out a deal before scheduling another budget committee meeting.

"It's not for lack of working on the budget, it's just doing it in a process to try to find consensus," Vos said.

Vos said the negotiations haven't reached a point where they are considering passing the transportation budget in a separate bill, which would allow them to court Democratic votes. He said a proposal by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, to raise fees on

"My hope is we are able to find a long-term solution for transportation," Vos said. "It seems to be elusive which leaves us with a lot of bad choices, frankly."

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