5/10/2017, WKOW-Madison (video) – Republicans seem no closer to an agreement on transportation funding, leaving local business owners holding their breath as they hope money to complete the Verona Road construction project is part of the final 2017-19 state budget.
If the money winds up being there – as Governor Scott Walker proposed in his original transportation budget – the third and final phase of the project will be completed by 2020.
“I think most of the businesses will tell you, if they know and if there’s some certainty about that finish line they can plan accordingly,” said Cynthia Jagge, project manager for the Verona Road Business Coalition. “They can make adjustments and things and they can navigate through it.”
But certainty seems a long way off right now.
“If we can’t reach agreement, a lot of these projects are gonna stop because we are not going to continue to borrow without a long-term plan to pay it back,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester).
Assembly Republicans have drawn that line in the sand, despite Governor Walker’s criticisms of their plan to raise taxes to pay for such projects now and in the future.
“We need to say – ‘OK, Governor Walker, we don’t like your plan, you don’t like ours. We’re happy to sit down and talk and find some middle ground,'” said Speaker Vos.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) thinks he’s found a possible compromise.
“Its discussions related to using some general purpose revenue to fund some bonding,” said Sen. Fitzgerald.
In other words, instead of borrowing money to pay for projects and then paying it back through the already strapped transportation fund, the state would pay it off using money from the general purpose revenue fund – which is forecast to grow.
“I think, kind of what I’m talking about fits better in with the discussions I’ve had with the Governor’s office,” said Sen. Fitzgerald.
“I can promise you right now, that’s not gonna happen,” said Speaker Vos just an hour earlier, in regards to additional bonding.
“It’s not our solution. It’s not our answer,” added Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee.
Governor Walker has said repeatedly he will not sign any budget that includes an increase in taxes or transportation fees, but he is open to a modest level of borrowing to pay for road improvements.