A proposed state constitutional amendment on the ballot in Wisconsin next month asks voters to decide whether or not Wisconsin lawmakers and the governor should be allowed to remove money from the state transportation fund to pay for other projects.
The amendment passed two consecutive sessions of the Legislature with strong bipartisan support, fueled in part by decisions to raid almost $1.4 billion from the transportation fund between 2003 and 2011. The fund, which includes money collected from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, is supposed to be used only for transportation projects. However, advocates of the amendment say lawmakers and the governor used loopholes to remove money. Changing the state’s Constitution would prevent future raids.
State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison), who was among a handful of lawmakers who opposed the amendment, argues its adoption would “handcuff” the Legislature and governor in the future by making a huge sum of money off limits, regardless of the state’s current financial situation. He believes that, if more money is needed in the fund, “lawmakers and the governor should address the issue head-on, rather than hide behind a proposed constitutional amendment that really doesn’t add one penny.”
AUDIO: Sen. Fred Risser (:32)
Risser also believes the proposal unfairly protects a single fund that benefits a large lobbying interest. Road builders have been major advocates of the amendment and Risser says it would “give them a lock on a big sum of money that cannot be used for any other purpose.” He argues that should concern the general public as they consider whether or not to vote for the measure on November 4.