Governor Scott Walker’s plans to pay for the state’s transportation needs through increased borrowing are likely to face close scrutiny once lawmakers get down to the task of assessing the Republican governor’s proposed 2015-’17 state budget proposal. “There are going to be things that we think are great, and there are going to be things that we have deep concerns about as this budget goes forward,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington). “It’s important for everybody across Wisconsin to realize that while we are strong supporters of Governor Walker, this is his budget and we’ll have opportunity to shape it according to what we think the priorities of Wisconsin are, over the next few months.”
Walker’s budget proposal includes more than $1.5 billion dollars in bonding, mostly for transportation projects. “Our caucus has discussed it, and we have sincere concerns about relying so heavily on borrowing to fund transportation and infrastructure,” Vos said. “We want to see what the exact details of the proposal are as we move forward.
“For me, I would look towards a comprehensive approach, looking at reducing bonding, perhaps reforms in the Department of Transportation, and possibly finding some (revenue) increases,” said Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) who co-chairs the legislature’s budget writing Joint Committee on Finance. That last option hasn’t proved popular with Wisconsin voters. “In our Marquette Law School poll we’ve seen that people value transportation, but when we ask specifically ‘would you pay more gas tax or vehicle registration,’ those are not popular options,” noted Marquette University political scientist Charles Franklin.
Representative Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) also serves on the Joint Finance Committee. “I think there’s more agreement than there normally is” Hintz said. “I’m pleased to hear my Republican colleagues that are concerned . . . to the level of bonding being proposed for transportation,” Hintz said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) shares the concerns of his Assembly colleagues. “It’s a great sign that the overall level of bonding is lower, but in relationship to infrastructure I think there’s some concerns about that.”