Governor Scott Walker is reaching out directly to the top Republican in the state Assembly with a call to work together on transportation funding.
In a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos sent Wednesday, Walker said he welcomes constructive input on the budget request the Department of Transportation submitted last week. However, he also warned that he will not consider alternatives and options that grow the size of government. “We did not get elected as conservatives to raise taxes or fees,” he argued.
The budget request from the DOT calls for delaying several major projects around the state in order to close a shortfall in the state’s transportation plan, while prioritizing basic maintenance and safety improvements. It does not include any tax or fee increases to help fund roads, while it does rely on bonding.
Vos and other Assembly GOP leaders have been critical of the governor’s stance against raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees, along with plans to delay key road projects. They have argued the move will just push the costs into the future, making them more expensive.
In a letter back to the governor, also sent Wednesday, the Speaker and other Republican leaders raised concerns about the potential impact Walker’s plan would have on the freeway system in southeastern Wisconsin, which supports about 20 percent of the jobs in the state. “Under your plan, the unfortunate reality is that these roads may not be done in our lifetime,” they wrote.
The letter also noted that several other areas of state government rely on user fees to sustain them, including professional licensing programs and more recently the state park system. However, Wisconsin is in the bottom third of states nationally when it comes the user fees that support the transportation budget.
Vos said the Assembly plans to conduct information hearings on the “future ramifications” of the budget request, so members can better understand the rate at which Wisconsin roads are deteriorating, which projects could face delays, and the cost of resurfacing roads that may eventually have to be completely rebuilt. Rep. Keith Ripp (R-Lodi) is expected to run the hearings.