Wisconsin Gov. Walker Seeks $1.3 Billion in Bonds to Cover 2-Year Highway Needs

AASHTO Journal, 6 February 2015

Gov. Scott Walker sent his legislature a budget plan that would close Wisconsin’s projected highway spending gap over the next two years by issuing $1.3 billion in bonds for the Department of Transportation.

While news agencies report that is consistent with Walker’s approach of not raising new taxes, some also say his proposal is drawing concern from fellow Republicans in the state Senate about issuing more debt rather than providing longer-term solutions on transportation funding needs.

Earlier, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation proposed a multilayered plan to increase highway and transit revenues by $751 million over two years, through revamping motor fuel taxes, levying additional annual registration fees on owners of electric or high-efficiency hybrid vehicles and introducing a “highway use” tax on sales of all new vehicles.

It also proposed increasing general fund support for transportation, noting that the system provides broad economic benefits across the state.

News reports suggested that legislators could try to enact at least some revenue increases.

In the wake of Walker’s Feb. 3 budget proposal, one news agency reported Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald saying he was uncomfortable with the borrowing level for transportation and that it was too early to rule out a vehicle registration fee increase.

Another reported similar concerns among GOP leaders in the state Assembly, including from the Speaker and the co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance.

Other lawmakers have also questioned the debt level and the interest payments they put on WisDOT, and have said they are looking for sustainable funding options.

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