The Latest: Republicans OK scaled-back building budget

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Latest on Wisconsin budget negotiations (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

The Legislature’s Republican-controlled finance committee has signed off on reducing Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ budget for state construction projects by about $615 million.

Evers’ state budget called for spending $2.5 billion on building projects, including $1.1 billion for the University of Wisconsin System.

Republicans on the finance committee erased Evers’ construction plan on Tuesday night and inserted their own into the budget on a 12-4 vote. All four Democrats on the panel voted against the GOP plan.

Their proposal spends about $1.9 billion, including $5 million to purchase land and begin a bidding process to build a new prison in Green Bay.

Evers called for spending an additional $194 million to build new facilities to house juvenile offenders after the state’s youth prison closes. The Republicans reduced that figure to $44 million.

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7:30 p.m.

Republicans are dramatically scaling back Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to spend $194 million more to build smaller facilities to house juvenile offenders when Wisconsin’s youth prison closes.

The Legislature last year unanimously approved a bill shuttering the troubled youth prison outside Irma.

The bill requires the prison to close by January 2021 and offenders to be transferred to new, smaller state- and county-run facilities. The measure authorizes $25 million in borrowing to build smaller regional state facilities as well as $15 million to expand the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center. The law also provides $40 million in borrowing to fund grants for counties to build juvenile detention centers.

Evers’ state budget would spend an additional $194 million on the new facilities and the Mendota expansion.

Republicans on the Legislature’s finance committee introduced their own plan Tuesday that sets out only $43.9 million in new funding. That money would be earmarked only for the Mendota expansion.

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6:45 p.m.

Republicans on the Legislature’s finance committee have decided to spend about $615 million less on building projects around the state than Gov. Tony Evers wants.

Evers’ state budget proposal called for spending $2.5 billion, including $1.1 billion for University of Wisconsin System construction projects.

Republicans on the finance committee introduced their own plan Tuesday. It would spend about $1.9 billion on construction projects, including $5 million to buy land and launch a request for bids to build a new prison to replace the Green Bay Correctional Institution. Evers’ budget didn’t include any provisions for a new prison.

The Republican plan matches Evers’ call to spend $77.6 million to renovate Camp Randall Stadium and $48 million to renovate the Kohl Center.

The finance committee was expected to approve the new plan Tuesday evening.

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This item has been updated to correct that the plan calls for spending $5 million to buy land and launch bidding process for a new Green Bay prison, not to build the prison.

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6 p.m.

Republicans who control the Legislature’s finance committee are going along with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to extend the Department of Natural Resources’ stewardship program for another two years.

The stewardship program was established in 1989. It’s scheduled to end in mid-2020.

The program allows the DNR to borrow money to acquire land, develop recreational facilities and provide grants to local governments and conservation groups to help them buy land.

The governor’s state budget would extend the program using $23.9 million in unused borrowing authority and providing $42.6 million in new borrowing authority. He also would create a commission to develop recommendations for a long-term re-authorization.

Republicans have long criticized the program, saying it places too much land under government control and has racked up too much debt.

But GOP members of the finance committee voted Tuesday to keep the stewardship extension in the budget.

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5:10 p.m.

Republicans on the Legislature’s finance committee have rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to dramatically increase factory farm fees.

Evers’ state budget would increase the farms’ annual pollution permit fee from $345 to $660 and impose a new $3,270 fee payable every five years.

The new revenue would fund five regulatory positions within the Department of Natural Resources to speed permit approval. Evers’ budget also would transfer 9.5 positions from the DNR’s nonpoint pollution operations to factory farm regulation.

Republicans on the finance committee erased the fee increases from the budget Tuesday. They inserted their own plan into the budget that would create four new factory farm regulatory positions, one fewer than Evers wanted. The plan retains the position transfers, however.

The number of factory farms in Wisconsin has spiked in recent years. As a result the DNR has struggled to keep up with permit reviews and renewals. As of this past May, 20.3 percent of factory farms were operating with an expired permit.

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1:24 p.m.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says overall tax increases in the Republican state budget plan will not exceed tax cuts.

Republicans are working on a roughly $400 million income tax cut proposal. They’ve already voted to approve higher vehicle registration and title fees to help pay for roads.

Vos said Tuesday at a Wisconsin Health News event that if Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoes the entire budget, Republicans will not consider taking any override votes until October. The current budget ends on June 30, but unlike with the federal government and in some states funding in Wisconsin continues under current levels until there is a new deal.

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee planned to meet Tuesday and again Thursday to complete its work. The full Legislature was expected to vote on the budget in late June.

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8:27 a.m.

How much to spend on state building projects over the next two years is one of the final big items pending before the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers requested $2.5 billion for buildings across the state, including $1.1 billion for the University of Wisconsin System. University officials have been lobbying hard for the funding, saying their buildings are in serious need of upgrades.

But Republicans who control the Legislature are expected to pare down the spending request from Evers. The big question is which projects will be prioritized.

The budget panel is also considering an income tax cut , changes in regulations to large animal farms and extending the state’s stewardship land preservation program.

It’s planning to complete its work Thursday, sending the budget on to the Legislature.

Associated Press

Associated Press

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