Friday, December 9th, 2016

Driving Miss Budget

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Now that the mining bill is done and we begin to focus on the state budget, let’s check out the transportation budget jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.

Walker’s state transportation budget is a reversal of the budget under former Governor Jim Doyle. Under Doyle the state raided the transportation budget for $1.3 billion over eight years for spending on other budget priorities. The state attempted to make up for the shortfall by borrowing through binding, but the transportation fund still ended up short $434 million in the process.

Meanwhile, the costs of borrowing meant less money for transportation in the long term due to debt service. The state was only able to spend 88 cents on the transportation dollar to keep our infrastructure intact.

So there is good news that the transportation funds raids have stopped. There is even more good news in that the legislature has completed adopting a state constitutional amendment protecting the transportation fund from further raids. The amendment now moves to a referendum in 2014.

As expected, Walker is not going to listen to a state transportation commission that proposed, among other things, increasing the gas tax and a new mileage driven fee. Given the weak economy and record gas prices, additional taxes and fees would not be a welcome addition to the transportation budget.

Nor does he delay reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange, an idea floated by the state Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb in his department’s budget request. Over 350,000 vehicles move through the Zoo Interchange on I-94 every single day. The Hoan Bridge reconstruction will also move forward.

However, Walker’s transportation budget does reach into general purpose revenue for $129 million to cover some of the shortfall. Transit aid takes $106 million from general purpose revenue instead of the gas tax and registration fees that make up the transportation fund. This is the second budget in a row proposed by Walker that reaches into general purpose revenue for transportation.

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