Gov Discusses Transportation Funding, Priorities


Governor Scott Walker is promising to put more road-builders back to work, as he spelled out some details of his state transportation budget plan today. But it isn’t clear how he’d pay for some of the proposals, and Walker left the door open to selling some state-owned power plants.

Walker told the operating engineers union in Pewaukee this morning that he wants to invest $6.4 billion in state transportation infrastructure over the next two years. That includes large sums for the zoo interchange and Hoan bridge in the Milwaukee area, and smaller amounts for freight rail to carry things like frac sand, and some harbor improvements. Walker contends there’d be $824 million in new state funds, though he admits much of that would come through borrowing money for the big road projects. “But we’ve got a series of ways to accelerate repayment over time, and that will help us keep those projects on schedule, keep other road projects around the state on schedule.”

Walker says he’s looking into ways to sell excess state property, like some land the transportation department acquires for projects. Asked if he plans to sell state-owned power plants, he said, “could be,” but says that would be done through a bidding process. Walker is also proposing to shift transit funding to the state’s general fund in 2015. Terry McGowan of the operating engineers is just happy that more of his members would likely get jobs if the Walker budget passes: “Hundreds of our people who work in the road industry were out of work, long before the recession hit.”

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Two years ago, Walker canceled plans for high-speed rail between Milwaukee and Madison, preventing the hiring of some bridge-builders and crane operators.