06/12/2016, WISN UpFront with Mike Gousha (video) – Transcript:
MIKE: Our state leaders at odds over a big fix for crumbling roads and bridges. The Wisconsin State Journal recently reported that the upcoming Wisconsin Department of Transportation budget won’t propose any tax or fee increases and will instead emphasize maintenance of the most used roads and bridges. Governor Walker took to Twitter defending the DOT budget priorities. But some top Republican lawmakers blasted the transportation budget plan. Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted “this is unacceptable. We must address the transportation fund in the next budget. Economic development depends on it. Time to lead.” Rep. Jim Steineke, the Republican from Kaukauna and the Assembly Majority Leader joins us now on UpFront.
It’s good to have you back on the program.
Let’s talk about your call for leadership, what does leadership look like, what do you want to see happen with the transportation budget?
REP. STEINEKE: We need to fix this. I know where the Governor is coming down on this, he’s not proposing any new revenue for the transportation fund, but the truth is, we are looking at $600 million plus shortfall in every budget cycle. We are looking at delaying projects, delaying maintenance on roads, and we’re going to pay for this at some point. Either we pay for it now and fix the fund for the long-term, or we are going to make our kids pay for it down the road.
MIKE: So when you talk about a fix, what are you prepared to do, what is Speaker Vos prepared to do, the co-chair of Finance Representative John Nygren, what do you want to see done?
REP. STEINEKE: I think all the options are on the table. The Governor put together a commission a number of years ago to study the long-term funding for transportation. I think we are open to any of those options or a combination of them. But what we are not open to is not doing anything and letting our roads continue to deteriorate and just looking at more problems down the road.
MIKE: so as a Republican you would be ok with a small increase in the gas tax, or a hike in the vehicle registration fees, would those things be on the table for you?
REP. STEINEKE: Like I said, all of them would be on the table. I think the reality is we are going to raise taxes. It’s already going on right now, the Governor’s position says that we are not willing to raise taxes, but taxes are being raised right now. Local units of government are instituting wheel taxes to fill the gap. They are looking at referendums for transportation studies. So taxes are going up. Its just that the fact is the state is not doing its part in leading to a solution to this issue, its something we really need to do.
MIKE: So the Governor goes back and blames some of this on former Governor Doyle raiding of the transportation fund, that there were Democrats to blame for creating this problem, but he says he would be willing to talk about fixing the roads and bridges in a bigger way if you could come up with the revenue, in other words if you cut taxes somewhere else, he might be willing to look at this. Can you cut taxes in order to fix the roads?
REP. STEINEK: Listen, when we are having hard times with funding the UW System, obviously we had to cut them in the last budget. Funding K-12. Medicaid is eating up about 90% of all the new revenue coming in. When you have those budget pressures, I think its unrealistic to say we are going to be able offset it in the budget, somewhere else, but something we’d be open to it if the revenues are there… be we do need to find a long-term fix, regardless.
MIKE: Final question on this, has this created any hard feelings? You have a Republican Governor who feels strongly about this issue, and yet you obviously feel strong about it, have you heard anything from the Governor?
REP. STEINEKE: No I haven’t heard from the Governor. I respect the Governor in a lot of different ways, and a lot of his different positions, but on this I think we are letting our rigid ideology get in the way of reality. We need to get this fixed and this next budget is the time to do it.