Governor Scott Walker is standing firm on his transportation budget.
Many Republican lawmakers disagree with the GOP governor on how to address Wisconsin’s near $1 billion transportation shortfall. Legislators are reportedly considering addressing the transportation budget separately from the rest of the two-year spending plan.
Walker, during a Friday appearance on WTAQ’s Jerry Bader Show, urged legislators to neither delay action nor pass nothing at all. “There isn’t the funding to move forward with major new projects, and there certainly won’t be any new money for local road aids.”
During a Thursday stop in Neenah, Walker said one of the major projects that could be delayed is the 10/441 expansion.
Some legislators have also objected to the governor’s proposal to bond for $500 million for transportation projects. “Bonding makes sense in the same way as when you buy a house, you don’t pay for it in cash, you pay for it off the mortgage. When you do remodeling, you try to pay as you go, and that’s exactly what we’re proposing here.”
The only transportation plan put forth thus far is by Assembly Republicans. However, it would increase taxes at the pump, which Walker and Senate Republicans oppose. Walker has said he will veto any budget that raises either the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.
The Joint Finance Committee has not yet indicated when it will act on the transportation budget.
Walker also discussed his proposal to eliminate the state portion of property tax bills, which has served as a mill tax for the forestry industry since the 1930’s. He wants to eliminate the tax to ensure it cannot be increased by future governors.
Walker says there are two reasons lawmakers are hesitant to support his proposal, one being that some legislators come from parts of Wisconsin that heavily depend on forestry. “Forestry to me is important like cheese is and agriculture and manufacturing. Those things we support even without a separate state property tax. We’ll continue to support forestry without a separate property tax.”
The governor claims the other concern is permanently losing a revenue source that could come in handy if the state economy takes a turn for the worse.
Walker also praised the legislative budget committee’s decision to extend a tuition freeze in the UW System.
The two-year extension would keep in-state, undergraduate costs level for six straight years. Democrats oppose the plan, claiming limiting UW resources will make it harder for students to graduate on time. “The audacity of Democrats, the very party that was in charge for part of the decade before our freeze went into effect, when tuition, in that decade, went up 118%, now runs around with motions that they want to provide free tuition for two years. It’s just a joke,” Walker said.