Republican Leaders Say That With Transportation Fund Deficit, There Are No Easy Answers

Vos, Fitzgerald Address The State's Ongoing Struggle To Pay For Roads

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin State Legislature.

The Legislature’s top Republicans say there are no easy answers when it comes to filling a projected deficit in Wisconsin’s transportation fund.

Ever since the Legislature and the governor ended the automatic indexing of the gas tax about a decade ago, the state has struggled with how to pay for roads. Gov. Jim Doyle increased a variety of fees, and both Doyle and Gov. Scott Walker relied more heavily on borrowing.

Going forward, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said that while Walker will set the agenda for the transportation budget, part of the solution might be cutting road funding.

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“We have a shoulder on each side of the highway on pretty much every road in Wisconsin. That’s not all that normal, so you can pull over at any time on any road anywhere. That actually costs more money to be able to buy all that additional right-of-way and keep up with it.”

He said his caucus had many other “simple ideas” for decreasing costs and boosting revenues.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald also said Walker should take the lead on road funding, adding that his members are unlikely to support increasing traditional taxes to pay for roads, such as a gas tax increase.

“We’re going to have to come up with some out-of-the box solutions here,” he said. “Bonding is not an answer either. I think people saw that that last budget there was probably just too much bonding. So it’s a tough one.”

A commission appointed by Walker suggested a variety of taxes and fees to pay for roads last session, but the governor rejected all of those ideas.