MADISON -- Wisconsin Assembly Republican leaders vowed that they would pass the long-delayed state budget on said Wednesday, September 13th and said they would not be "held hostage" by GOP senators who are withholding their support.
"The time to change the budget has expired," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters in the afternoon, hours into the Assembly's debate.
Assembly passage will put the ball in the Senate's court, where Republicans who are holding out face two options: back down, or call Vos's bluff. Senate Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Wednesday and said they were still divided on what to do.
The latest sign of division appeared the night before, when Senate Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he didn't have the 17 votes he needs to pass the budget in his chamber and hoped the Assembly would amend the bill to address the concerns of the senators who are holding out.
The $76 billion state budget is now 10 weeks past due, having been delayed because of a Republican disagreement over transportation spending. The Legislature's budget committee, led by Republicans from both the Assembly and Senate, struck a deal last week. But a few conservative senators are said to still be unhappy that the budget spends too much money.
"It's very difficult," Fitzgerald told reporters Tuesday evening. "You just kind of hope that members come along and understand that we're at that point where it's time to pass the state budget."
Last week's deal delays two Milwaukee-area interstate projects, imposes a new fee on hybrid and electric vehicles, and repeals the state's prevailing wage law -- which sets a minimum wage for construction work.
Gov. Scott Walker, speaking via telephone during a trade mission to South Korea, said he was open to the idea of Assembly Republicans amending the bill to get it done.
"I'm still confident we'll have a budget by the end of the summer," Walker said.
Vos slammed the door on any major changes, pledging to pass the budget largely as-is Wednesday.
"Once we vote for the budget today, we are done with the budget process because we have lived up to our negotiating end," Vos told reporters.
Assembly Democrats, who criticized the budget as "rigged" against Wisconsin workers, highlighted the division among their GOP colleagues.
"Not only will this be difficult a difficult vote for people on your side of the aisle, they don't even have the votes in the Senate to pass this bill," said Democratic Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
As of 5 p.m., Republicans had rejected all 19 Democratic amendments before approving one technical amendment of their own. There were no changes offered that would appease the Senate holdouts.