October 25, 2014

Transportation fund amendment will go to voters

Wisconsin voters will get a chance to amend the state constitution next year. An amendment passed Wednesday by the state Senate would bar lawmakers from raiding the state transportation fund. Some Senate Democrats, including Minority Leader Chris Larson of Milwaukee, objected. Larson said Governor Scott Walker has been pouring money into roads, and the amendment means transportation funding will never be available for other needs.

“We don’t even trust the next governor or the next set of legislators,” said Larson. “We want to make sure we ratchet this in, that there’s no way you can end up shifting money towards other priorities, away from transportation. It’s a one-way street.”

“There are times when we need to exercise our responsibilities as the peoples’ representative, to use those revenue streams in the best way possible,” said Monona Democrat,” Senator Mark Miller. “This legislation, if adopted, will be an example of lazy legislating.”

Former Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, dipped into the transportation fund several times to help shore up budget holes in other areas. In total, almost $1.3 billion was moved out of the fund in the past decade.

Marathon Republican Senator Jerry Petrowski said the public wants to be reassured that the gas tax and other fees are going to sustain the state’s transportation needs. “A lot of people have talked about finding ways to get more revenue into transportation,” Petrowski said. “But they really want to know, that before they’re willing to put more dollars into transportation, that those funds are going to be protected, and use for transportation purposes.”

The Senate’s 25-to-8 vote on the measure, which previously passed in the Assembly, sets the stage for the amendment to be on the statewide ballot in November of 2014.