The legislature’s budget writing committee grills the head of the Department of Transportation on the third day of agency budget briefings.
Governor Scott Walker wants to borrow $1.3 billion to fund road projects in the state. Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb tells members of the Joint Finance Committee if he had to choose between bonding or cutting the highway program, he’d choose bonding.
“It would be a worse outcome in the long-term to cut the highway program and not do the bonding than it is to do the bonding because it prevents us from being able to make the investments that we need to make today to avoid higher costs down the road.”
Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) says borrowing such a large amount of money puts a burden on Wisconsin citizens. “By borrowing $1.3 billion dollars, which amounts to $228 for every man, woman, and child in the state of Wisconsin, I just don’t know how we can continue to justify bonding.”
Gottlieb says “interest rates remain favorable” for borrowing money and overall bonding in the state budget is the lowest in ten years. He says reducing the amount of bonding would lead to delays in major construction projects across state.
Gottlieb’s earlier proposal called for a series of tax-and-fee hikes. There are none in Walker’s budget for the transportation department. Fiscal Bureau estimates Transportation would have an additional $968 million if the gas tax index had remained in place.
Wednesday’s DOT budget briefing with JFC was 3 hours and 20 minutes.