9/16/2016, WXOW ABC La Crosse (video) – A political battle over transportation funding in Wisconsin heats up with Governor Scott Walker on one side and Democrats along with some Republicans on the other.
It’s a familiar debate: More spending or lower taxes. Governor Walker says low taxes should be the priority while many state lawmakers say crumbling roads and highways require some additional investments.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and three other GOP state representatives issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying Walker shouldn’t delay important state projects because they’ll just cost more in the future and lead to dramatic fee or tax increases. They called Walker’s plan a political solution, not a real solution.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has submitted its budget request. While it calls for an additional $65 million for local governments to spend on roads and borrowing $550 million, opponents say it still will force delays in planned transportation projects.
94th District Representative Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska) said Walker is simply shifting funds around rather than increasing the amount of dollars the Department of Transportation has to work with and that La Crosse County will see the repercussions. He said there are 150 miles of county roads in La Crosse in desperate need of repairs.The current budget only allows for eight miles to be repaired a year. Walker’s new proposal will increase that to 8 1/3rd miles of road each year.
Doyle said that’s not a viable solution, that roads will only continue to worsen until legislators find a solution that works. He suggests a minor gas tax increase.
“Gas prices right now are low. Nobody is talking about a huge increase in the gas tax but, you know, something that will put some money into the system to start to reverse the years of damage that we’ve been unable to attend to and start to get back to where we need to be,” he said.
Doyle said it’s well worth it to pay a few extra cents every time you fuel up, instead of paying for car repairs caused by pothole filled roads. As the cost of asphalt and construction materials continue to go up, so will the cost of road repairs, he added.
Governor Walker’s office called the $65 million dollar increase the largest year-to-date change in local aids in 1999-2000.
“The bottom line is this budget proposal includes greater funding at all levels of local government for roads and bridges, renews our focus on traffic safety and road maintenance, and most importantly, does not increase tax and fees for the good people of Wisconsin,” Walker said.