State Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, says he doesn't intend to pass the next state budget without a plan to improve roads across Wisconsin.
"I don’t intend to pass a state budget that doesn’t actually fix this problem," Vos said during a taping of Wisconsin Public Television’s "Here and Now."
Wisconsin’s transportation budget shortfall is estimated to be about $600 million. Some reports have ranked the state’s roads among the worst in the country and called out the related expenses for drivers.
During the interview, Vos said he "fundamentally disagrees" with Gov. Scott Walker's view on transportation spending. The governor has said repeatedly that he won't increase roads spending unless equivalent cuts are made elsewhere in the state budget.
Vos said "all options should be on the table" when it comes to the funding.
"I just disagree fundamentally with Gov. Walker's assumption that we can kick the can down the road, push decisions onto a future legislature, which will end up being more expensive and potentially not in the interest of taxpayers," Vos said.
Last year, the governor proposed borrowing $1.3 billion over two years for roads spending. Republican legislators disagreed, and cut the amount to $850 million.
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A legislative audit of transportation spending is expected to be released this fall. Vos said the audit would help legislators figure out how to move forward, whether that's with revenue increases or other fiscal changes, during budget negotiations next year.
Vos said the public can play a role in convincing the governor to change his mind.
"We just have to have the public engaged in that conversation to work on convincing Gov. Walker that it's not more conservative to borrow as opposed to spending it smartly now," Vos said.
In an editorial printed Thursday in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Walker wrote, "I will not raise the overall tax burden on the hard-working people of Wisconsin."
He added that the next state budget "will not rely on huge amounts of new borrowing."
"For those who suggest we have relied too heavily on borrowing, they are leaving out important facts that aren't kind to their argument," Walker wrote.