Republican leaders in the Wisconsin legislature have a public disagreement over paying for roads. Joint Finance committee co-chair Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) told WisPolitics on Wednesday that the Assembly GOP wants to delay construction on Milwaukee’s Zoo Interchange, to exert pressure on the Senate for tax or fee hikes.
“She, I think, got excited in defense of her area and said that the Assembly was holding the Zoo Interchange hostage,” said JFC co-chair Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette). “I guess I could make that same claim, that if we’re going to protect the Zoo, you’re holding the out state projects hostage.”
Nygren said Assembly Republicans want to make sure any cuts are felt equally throughout the state, if they reduce Governor Scott Walker’s recommended $1.3 billion in borrowing for transportation project costs. Vos and Nygren want to reduce the level of bonding for roads by $800 million.
“We need to get beyond these concerns for individual project and look at the state as a whole,” Nygren said, adding that he and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) are asking Darling to “walk back” her comments.
Darling (R-River Hills) issued the following statement regarding attempts to delay the Zoo Interchange
“I stand by my comments. There are more responsible solutions we must consider.
Like my Assembly colleagues, I believe the bonding in the transportation budget is unsustainable and must be reduced. I also agree with my Assembly colleagues that all areas of our state should share in any reductions in transportation projects. However, I believe this can be accomplished through a measured approach.
Delaying the completion of the core of the Zoo Interchange could jeopardize safety would harm our state’s economy. I won’t let safety and our economy be used as bargaining chips.”
A gas tax, Nygren insists, is not happening. “The governor has said that he would veto any registration fee or gas tax increase at this time. We’ve accepted that position and we’re trying to live within the means of the people of this state.”
Walker on Wednesday restated his opposition to any gas tax or vehicle registration fees to pay for road projects, without the increases being offset in other areas.
Vos and Nygren want to reduce the level of bonding for roads by $800 million. The dustup comes with the clock running on completing work on the state budget. The finance committee has not met since May 29.