The Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted 10-6 Wednesday afternoon to approve borrowing $350 million for transportation projects around the state. The motion passed without a single vote from the budget panel’s six Senate Republicans.
“We understand this is tough, but we’re going to stick with our decision, that we’re going to work with all of you to find a sustainable solution,” said JFC co-chair, Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills). “We’re going to have the courage to talk with our constituents and say ‘help us find a solution.'”
While the four Democrats on the committee voted with the Assembly Republicans to pass the motion, they used the opportunity to criticize GOP leadership under Governor Scott Walker, in the face of deteriorating state infrastructure.
“This is not a solution. This is just kicking the can down the road, and a messed-up road at that,” said Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwwaukee). “We have known that this day was coming,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). “Where’s your plan? The Republicans are in the majority in both houses, and a Republican is in the east wing of the Capitol right now. Where’s your plan?”
JFC co-chair, GOP Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), conceded that longterm roads funding remains a challenge.
“We’ve made some very difficult decisions, things that I think have put us in the right spot. We admit this is one that we still have to tackle. We have to come up with a solution here,” Nygren said. “I suggest that this conversation needs to start from the local towns, local cities. It needs to start regionally throughout our state. We need to have a dialogue to get us to a position where we have the support not just of the people in this room, but from the people of Wisconsin.”
The Joint Finance Committee earlier this year removed $800 million in borrowing, which Governor Scott Walker had included in his proposed state budget. Instead, they approved $500 million, with the authority to consider an additional $350 million dollars over two years. In response to the earlier cut, the DOT extended the timetable for completion of current major projects, that would not finish for another two years.