Wis. Gov. Wants to Debt-finance $1.3 billion in Transportation Projects
A budget proposal by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would borrow funds to support $1.3 billion in transportation projects over the next two years but delay construction of new buildings, including those in the University of Wisconsin System, to decrease overall levels of state borrowing. In all, the plan would introduce $300 million in cuts to the University of Wisconsin System.
The plan rejects a proposal by Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Gottlieb to raise $751 million in road projects by increasing gas taxes, registration fees and other new taxes and fees.
“Walker's goal, as stated multiple times, is to lower the burden on the hard-working taxpayers of the state...while continuing to invest in his priorities,” Walker spokesperson Laurel Patrick indicated in a statement.
In 2013, Walker and state lawmakers approved $2 billion in borrowing to support road and building projects. Estimates indicate that one-fifth of state road funds will be required to service highway loans this year. Opponents of the Walker proposal contend the amount will climb if state legislators approve additional borrowing to fund transportation projects.
Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association Executive Director Pat Goss told reporters the state needs to generate new sources of funding to service debt on transportation projects. “If it is the will of the legislature to not provide more funding, then our preference would be to cut,” Goss said. “It's the responsible thing and the right thing.”
Walker's budget may face opposition among state lawmakers, even members of his own party. “To continue to just borrow and spend isn't fiscally responsible, Assembly Speaker Robin Voss (R-Rochester), indicated in a statement. “We will certainly be pushing for a more permanent fix instead of just more bonding.”