Majority Republican lawmakers are questioning the long-term viability of Governor Scott Walker's transportation budget, but it remains to be seen whether they'll offer up an alternative.
In the legislature's budget committee yesterday, multiple Republicans pressed Walker Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb for a long-term solution to funding roads. River Falls GOP Senator Sheila Harsdorf wanted to know how long the state could wait: "For a long time we've known that we have a revenue problem in transportation."
River Hills Republican Senator Alberta Darling said the state needed to look at the big picture when it comes to funding transportation, "because it's going to start eating us alive."
A special study committee organized by the Department of Transportation did recommend several ideas for funding roads, from a gas tax increase to a mileage based registration fee. The Governor rejected all of them, opting instead to increase borrowing by more than a billion dollars. And as Ripon Republican Senator Luther Olsen pointed out yesterday, the budget would spend more of what's known as "General Purpose Revenue," (GPR), on roads. That's money that normally pays for schools and health care.
"It seems to me that there is a big drain of the GPR budget in these two years to fund transportation, when we're having trouble funding other things."
Secretary Gottlieb told lawmakers the transportation system ought to be funded with user fees over the long-term, but he declined to endorse any particular one of them.
"The needs will clearly be ongoing, and it will clearly be ongoing and it will clearly become more difficult to meet them with existing streams of revenue that we have."
Gottleib contends the Governor's budget keeps crucial road projects on track while the legislature grapples with that issue.