Capitol Insight: Divisions Within GOP On Tax Cuts Plan

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Capitol Insight: Divisions Within GOP On Tax Cuts Plan

Premiere Date: 
February 14, 2014

WPR's Shawn Johnson talks to Frederica Freyberg about the divisions within the party.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

As Governor Walker tours the state promoting his agenda, he's generally been able to count on the state legislature to approve it, but a rare case of party infighting that's gone public has cast doubt on that this year. We're joined now by Wisconsin Public Radio’s Shawn Johnson to talk about this.  Hi, Shawn.

Shawn Johnson:

Hey, Fred.

Frederica Freyberg:

So it's not as though this kind of infighting amongst the Republicans is anything new, but it's risen to a new level.

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah. It's been a departure from the Republican playbook. For assembly speaker, Robin Vos, and senate majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald, even on issues as big as the governor’s tax cuts.

Frederica Freyberg:

And we’ve discussed it, you could even really kind of start to see that on the night of the governor's State of the State Address. The governor laid out his tax cut plan. Speaker Vos said it was perfect, whereas Senator Fitzgerald said he didn't know where his members were on this. And that's kind of where things stand today. Now, normally when this happens it seems as though the Republicans can work things out and proceed.

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah, right. Normally, but not this year. Speaker Robin Vos decided he didn't want to wait for Fitzgerald and the senate, so he had the assembly pass the tax cuts without them. Senator Fitzgerald was not happy about that.

Scott Fitzgerald:

I think it's not necessary. I think it's not the way we operate around here. And I know I have some members that are pretty upset that they've decided to make this move.

Shawn Johnson:

And Speaker Vos told reporters he understood it was harder for Fitzgerald to get bills passed because the margins are tighter in the senate. That sounds like an olive branch there. But then Vos added this nugget.

Robin Vos:

I don't hold him in some negative light because he can’t get stuff done. I hope he doesn’t hold me in some negative light because our members want to get things accomplished.

Frederica Freyberg:

Ouch. Some us surmised that maybe this relationship breakdown is because Senator Fitzgerald doesn't have his brother any longer as the assembly speaker. But this week Senator Fitzgerald continued to kind of poke Speaker Vos. He sent out this letter to all rank and file members of the other chamber, the assembly, inviting them to talk directly to him, saying, “If you are the author of a bill that has been passed in the assembly but has not been acted on by the senate, please contact my office as soon as possible to discuss your legislative priorities.” Wow. What are people making of that letter?

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah, as mundane as that might sound, that letter really raised eyebrows in the capitol. People just don’t remember the last time a leader from one house went around the leader of the other in that way.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, presumably Democrats are kind of loving this infighting amongst the other party, but we wonder whether it actually will affect anything, things as big as the governor's tax cut proposals. Here's what the governor said about that.

Scott Walker:

Oh, I think there are some issues that go far beyond my tax proposal, so I'll let them expound on that, but I think it's probably much greater than that. So I think it's less about the tax cut plan and more about other issues.

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah. And on that issue, something probably is going to pass that looks a lot like what the governor introduced back in his State of the State Address. 

Frederica Freyberg:

After all of this. And it isn’t as though lawmakers aren't super busy still.

Shawn Johnson:

Oh, no, it's extremely busy at the capitol. There was one day last week when you had 30 committee meetings, lawmakers darting in and out, barely being able to hear testimony in any one committee meeting. The senate and assembly are both in passing bills. It's hectic there. I think the question at this point is whether some of the big bills, the ones people have heard about, are going to pass both houses.  

Frederica Freyberg:

Because there is that school accountability bill and in both houses it's a little bit different. The senate wants to pass something that's much smaller than what the assembly would. In fact, Speaker Vos called what the senate wants to do with it “small ball.”

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah, and you can look at stuff that they passed just this past week for other examples. The assembly passed constitutional amendments to get rid of the state treasurer and require a super-majority for tax increases. Fitzgerald's offices hasn't even discussed those. The senate passed a Fox City Regional Transit Authority, Vos says that's dead on arrival in the assembly.

Frederica Freyberg:

And then there’s this, they can't even agree on the calendar, the in-session calendar. Senator Fitzgerald says the session will end in April. Speaker Vos says, no, no, it's March.

Shawn Johnson:

Yeah, and again, that might sound like clerical stuff, but the legislative calendar is everything at the end of session. It's the deadlines for when bills have to get done or else they're dead for the year. So when that deadline gets moved around, it shakes up negotiations, and it's just another sign that this year some of those foregone conclusions aren't necessarily so.  

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, we will be watching it. You in particular will be there every day, running around after them, to all these hearings. Thanks Shawn.

Shawn Johnson:

Thanks, Fred. 


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