Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, made it clear on Monday: the clock is ticking on Wisconsin's two-year budget.
Vos and his Republican colleagues in the Assembly unveiled a proposal to revise the state's prevailing wage laws and released draft legislation proposing the public financing of a portion of a new Milwaukee Bucks arena.
Prevailing wage and the Bucks arena are two of the three main sticking points holding up progress on the budget. Vos said he thinks Assembly Republicans can release a proposal on the third — the state's transportation budget — sometime this week.
Asked whether the Assembly members of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee might pass their own version of the budget and send it to the Assembly floor, Vos said, "That is always a possibility if we don't see movement in the Senate."
He didn't give a specific deadline for when he'll decide whether to go it alone on the budget, but said the Assembly needs "some kind of an answer" from the Senate by the end of the week.
Assembly Republicans said they believe they have the votes to pass the prevailing wage revisions and the Bucks arena proposal, but Vos said he hasn't counted votes on the arena bill.
Vos, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, and Joint Finance co-chairman Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said the Bucks proposal significantly reduces the state's financial commitment to the arena from what Gov. Scott Walker originally proposed.
Steineke said the state's financial obligation is less than what it will ultimately gain by keeping the Bucks in Wisconsin.
Neither Nygren nor Vos expressed a preference as to whether the proposal should be taken up within the budget or on its own.
"If we do take it out of the budget, we're probably going to need some help in passing it (from Democrats)," Vos said, adding that he wants to make sure Democratic legislators have a chance to review the proposal and ask questions.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, issued a statement calling the proposal a "good deal for Wisconsin," but had no immediate response to Vos's comments about the budget timeline.
"The budget was really supposed to pass, hopefully by tomorrow, and we're certainly not going to meet that deadline," Vos said, adding that legislators are working on the budget "24/7" and trying to reach an answer this week.
July 1 marks the start of the new fiscal year. If the budget isn't passed by then, the state continues to operate under the previous budget.
Shortly after he won re-election in November, Walker told legislators he'd like the budget passed quickly. The Joint Finance Committee had hoped to wrap up its work by Memorial Day. But the committee hasn't met since May 29.
"I feel good that we're making progress. I really do. I'm not just saying that," Vos said. "I honestly believe we can find an answer by the end of the week. But we also have to have some sort of deadline, so we're not just sitting here staring at each other for months on end."