Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Vrakas pushes for end to raids of the transportation fund

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Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas thinks the public has had enough of the raids of the transportation funds, and he’s pushing for an amendment to the state constitution to stop it

“We are violating the faith and trust of the people who pay the gas tax,” he said, and then asked what people must think when they fill out a check at the Department of Transportation to the “Registration Fee Trust.” “We’re breaking the trust with the people and that’s the worst thing you can do.”

Vrakas supports an amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit transfers from the segregated transportation fund to spending on other budget items. Under the state’s amendment process, the state legislature would have to pass the amendment in two consecutive sessions of the legislature and then go to statewide referendum. The earliest such a referendum could take place would be 2013.

Vrakas said the state constitutional amendment is necessary because, “It’s too easy to transfer the money and play the game.” Vrakas said the reason the state transfers the money from the transportation fund is to get around the prohibition on borrowing for operating costs.

When the state takes the money from the transportation fund, the state borrows money to pay for transportation costs including road maintenance, new road construction, mass transit, and even mowing the grass on the medians. While the state has taken $1.3 billion from the segregated fund since 2003, the state has borrowed money to fill the gap.

“We don’t borrow for operating costs,” Vrakas said, saying it was one of the reasons Waukesha County has a triple-A bond rating. “It’s just a terrible budgetary practice. It’s very unseemly from a financial management standpoint.”

A vote on having an advisory referendum to endorse the amendment should come before the County Board on Wednesday, June 23rd. The board meeting is not on a Tuesday this month.

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