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Scott Walker: Moves free up $100 million for next transportation budget

Friday, April 14, 2017   (0 Comments)
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By Mark Sommerhauser, Wisconsin State Journal

Lower-than-expected costs for road projects and a revenue bump will free up more than $100 million for the next Department of Transportation budget, Gov. Scott Walker announced Thursday.

Walker’s DOT also is expediting 21 road and bridge maintenance projects to receive funding in the current state fiscal year, which ends June 30. The projects, totaling $65 million, had been scheduled for future years.

New forecasts call for $38 million more revenue than previously projected for the state transportation fund from the current fiscal year through the next two-year budget cycle, ending in June 2019. The fund’s revenues come primarily from fuel tax collections and vehicle registration fees.

Walker, in a statement, hailed these developments as signs of fiscal prudence in the DOT.

Republican lawmakers who control the state Assembly also praised the news. But Rep. John Nygren, who co-chairs the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, said in a statement that the $38 million increase is small in the context of the transportation fund, which receives about $2 billion in annual revenue.

“While only a 0.7 percent increase in the total transportation revenue, we are committed to ensuring this revenue will be spent wisely,” Nygren said.

Citing a backlog of costly highway projects, Nygren, R-Marinette, and other leading Assembly Republicans have pushed for consideration of new transportation revenues, likely through a tax or fee hike.

Walker’s proposal for the next state budget does not increase taxes or fees, and he has said he would veto a gas tax increase if lawmakers pass one.

Of the 21 maintenance projects placed on an expedited timeline for construction due to Thursday’s announcement, those located in south-central Wisconsin include:

  • Highway 39 near New Glarus,
  • Highway 18 from Cambridge to Highway 26 near Jefferson,
  • Highway 23 near Dodgeville,
  • Highway 18 interchange at Ridgeway.

See Wisconsin State Journal version here.

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