7/27/2016, WISC-TV Madison (video) – Wisconsin is short about a billion dollars for the next two years on its road budget, according to a memo released this week by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
“That Verona Road intersection has been difficult for years,” Madison resident Sam Johnson said.
Residents like Johnson have seen the impacts of deteriorating roads. Orange cones now line the intersection of Verona Road.
Johnson believes the construction needs to happen, but with close to a billion dollar short fall over the next two years, road construction projects are in jeopardy.
“They (local road projects) are getting less from the state than they were back in 2010. So, more goes on the property tax and then Interstate 39 and Verona interchange, those projects keep getting pushed back further and further which drives up the cost. We are seeing it impact in all kinds of ways, ” said Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin.
According to the memo, the state needs $939 million for the 2017-19 budget to maintain what was approved in the last budget, without including debt services.
“If we are really trying to attract jobs and grow Wisconsin, this is not a smart area to neglect,” Thompson said.
The gap in funding could lead to a debate over cutting projects or raising the gas tax. Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said everything should be on the table to find a sustainable solution.
“I’m willing to have a conversation about offsets if we can find them, but to think that we can continue with the way we are currently funding revenue, funding our transportation system from a revenue standpoint I think is unrealistic,” Nygren said.
Nygren said a solution could come from those who use the roadways the most.
“My preference would be gas tax, because that is something that people who are visiting our state pay, where registration would simply be the people of Wisconsin,” he said.
In the current budget, the legislature borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for essential projects and other projects were delayed. Gov. Scott Walker said borrowing is the lowest it’s been in 20 years.
Walker explained his position in several tweets Wednesday to say he is not in favor of raising the taxes without off setting costs in other area.
“I am confident we can safely and responsibly maintain our roads and do better than simply placing new taxes on Wisconsin citizens,” Walker said in a statement.
“Wisconsin spends more on state highways per capita than almost any other neighboring state. For decades, Wisconsin gas tax has been among highest in the US.”