After a glimmer of midday hope, Wisconsin Republicans ended Thursday without a deal on the state budget.
"There's no deal yet, that's for sure," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters late Thursday afternoon.
The Senate's 20 Republican lawmakers spent the afternoon discussing the budget, including an offer from Gov. Scott Walker intended to break a weeks-long impasse over transportation funding.
Earlier in the day, Assembly Republican leaders sent Walker a letter outlining their support for his proposal to put more money into roads in exchange for dropping his plan to cut income taxes by about $200 million.
Walker said he hoped the offer would lead to a compromise, and encouraged Senate Republicans to either accept the deal or offer a "reasonable" counter-proposal.
The governor's offer would remove all proposed bonding in his transportation budget, but would still allow for contingency bonding to match federal funding.
Progress on the budget — now 20 days late — has stalled as the Assembly and Senate have failed to find common ground on how to close a projected $1 billion shortfall in the state's transportation fund.
Assembly Republicans have sought additional revenue, while Senate Republicans have backed Walker's pledge to veto any budget that raises the gas tax or vehicle registration fees. Senate Republicans have argued borrowing is necessary to keep projects on track, but their Assembly counterparts have argued against any bonding that doesn't have a funding stream attached.
Senate Republicans released a budget proposal of their own on Tuesday with a total of $712 million in transportation bonding. Of that, $362 million would come from the segregated transportation fund, with the remaining $350 million coming from the general fund. That would be an increase from the $500 million in borrowing proposed in Walker's original spending plan.
The Senate proposal also had other ideas for Walker's proposed income tax cuts: it would scrap the plan and instead eliminate the state's personal property tax. Fitzgerald said there is still a lot of support within his caucus to do that.
Some Senate Republicans saw Walker's proposal to eliminate or reduce bonding as an effort designed to get Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, on board, Fitzgerald said Thursday.
"I don't know that the letter the Assembly sent out this afternoon necessarily moved anything," Fitzgerald said. "I like to think that our press conference (on Tuesday) is what made things move forward here."
Fitzgerald wasn't prepared to say whether he has the votes to pass a budget in the Senate now, adding that several members are still working out individual concerns.
In a separate letter, Joint Finance Committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, sent a letter to co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, requesting the committee resume its work "as early as next week."
That timeline is "aggressive," Fitzgerald said.
The committee could resume work the following week, he said, adding that he thinks it has about two or three more days worth of work before the budget goes to the full Legislature.