With transportation funding expected to be a major sticking point in state budget negotiations, lawmakers could look at taking it up as a standalone bill.
While Assembly Republicans have put forward a plan that relies on changes in the gas tax and minimum markup laws to fund roads, but the Senate and Governor Scott Walker have been largely dismissive of the plan. Likewise, Assembly GOP leaders have questioned using more borrowing to help deal with a shortfall in the transportation fund. That could set up a scenario under which the rest of the work on the state budget is complete, but the debate transportation holds up a final vote.
Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and John Nygren (R-Marinette) said Thursday that taking the issue up on its own could make sure the rest of the budget is done on time. “The transportation budget is going to be the biggest challenge of all,” Darling said. “The question is, are we gonna do a Band-Aid solution or are we going to have a big picture solution.”
Both lawmakers stressed that the idea of taking up transportation on its own is not something leadership is currently behind. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he would “strongly advocate for avoiding this approach,” although Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he’s “more than willing to negotiate on the transportation budget.”
The governor’s office indicated he would not support the move. “There’s no reason why they can’t get this done through the normal budget process, especially at a time when we’re seeing higher than expected revenues thanks to our reforms. If the Legislature wants to provide more money for transportation, then the governor is willing to work with them on that so long as we’re not raising taxes,” said Walker spokesman Tom Evenson.
Lawmakers are supposed to have a budget passed before the end of June, although Nygren and Darling noted that previous years have seen lawmakers push out past that date. “I think we’ve got plenty of time to get a budget passed before July First,” Nygren added.