Legislative Republican leaders emerged from a meeting with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday no closer to a transportation budget agreement.
Assembly Republicans have long sought additional revenue to help close a projected $1 billion shortfall in the state's transportation fund, but Walker has pledged to veto any budget that raises the gas tax or vehicle registration fees. Senate Republicans have sided with Walker in that aspect of the dispute.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a Rochester Republican, argued there should be no borrowing included in the budget without a new revenue stream. Walker's initial budget proposal called for $500 million in bonding, but the governor offered last week to bring that down to $300 million.
A nonpartisan audit of the state Department of Transportation completed in January found the percentage of the state's 11,758 miles of state highways rated in good condition declined from 53.5 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2015. Former DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb told lawmakers late last year that 42 percent of the state's highways are on track to be in poor condition within the next decade unless a funding solution is found.
Lawmakers who oppose more borrowing have noted that 20 cents per dollar in the transportation fund currently goes toward debt service. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau projects that will be up to 22 cents on the dollar by the end of 2019.
For the time being, projects will be funded at the levels enumerated under the current budget until a new one is passed, as the state has entered a new fiscal year.
Walker and others have warned the longer the budget stalemate goes on, the more likely ongoing projects will be delayed. He has highlighted in particular the expansions of I-39/90 in Dane and Rock counties, Verona Road on Madison's southwest side, Highway 10/Highway 441 in the Fox Valley and Highway 15 in Outagamie County.
A memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau shows that current projects will not see much of an impact unless the standoff continues for several more months.
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