The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee has approved an overhaul of transportation funding in the state budget.

The package approved Thursday at the Capitol includes cuts to road projects and other DOT programs, as part of an effort to reduce the $1.3 billion in borrowing proposed by Governor Scott Walker. The changes reduce that number by about $450 million, with much of the savings coming from delays or by cancelling road projects around the state.

JFC co-chair John Nygren (R-Marinette) said the move reduces bonding to a responsible level, which will be lower than they have been in decades. “We’re making responsible decisions with our debt,” Nygren argued.

Democrats blasted the cuts as damaging though, since they will likely slow down portions of multiple major projects. Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said the possibility of adding two years to Madison’s Verona Road project could further hurt businesses in that corridor.

Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) also accused Republicans of “punting” by not coming up with a solution to solve long-term funding problems with transportation. Democrats offered an amendment they argued would partially address the issue – by restoring a system that automatically increases state gas tax rates by tying them to inflation. The proposal failed on a 4-12 party line vote.

Lawmakers are working to wrap up committee work on the state budget sometime tonight or by early Friday morning. The budget could head to the full Legislature for approval by early next week.

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