Wisconsin state budget provides $320 million for roads and bridges

September 11, 2019

Keith Goble

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A new two-year state budget has been signed into law in Wisconsin with a big investment in transportation.

Gov. Tony Evers touts the state budget for investing in all transportation modes, including state and local roadways. He added it has the lowest level of borrowing in 20 years.

The budget includes an additional $320 million in state highway rehabilitation funding to improve highways and bridges across the state. There is $66 million for general transportation aids to help offset costs of transportation-related expenses in counties, cities, villages, and towns.

“Along with investing in the state highway system, we’re providing municipalities with additional resources to help them prioritize and complete badly needed improvements to local roadways,” Evers said in prepared remarks.

Veto critics

Critics of the budget highlight the Democratic governor’s use of his veto authority to cut $15 million from the $90 million the Republican-led Legislature approved for road projects across the state.

Evers instead made changes to allow the money to go to other types of local transportation projects, not just roads.

Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, referred to the governor’s action as creating a “slush fund.”

“Tax dollars intended to be used for road projects across the state could be diverted to special projects in Milwaukee and Madison,” August said. “These funds could even be used for non-road projects like bicycle or pedestrian enhancements. This is wrong.”

Three-way split

The $75 million for local projects will be split three ways. Counties will receive about $27 million, villages and cities will get $19 million, and towns will collect $29 million.

Evers said that while the approved state budget is an important step forward in addressing transportation needs, “my hope is to work cooperatively with elected state officials to identify a sustainable, long-term transportation funding solution.”

His administration advocates for a fuel tax increase to boost road funding. The state’s fuel tax now is set at 32.9 cents.

Evers announced earlier this year he wants a nearly 10-cent increase over two years to 42.5 cents. The increase would raise about $491 million.

Fuel rates would also be indexed to rise with inflation.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believes increasing the fuel tax is the most equitable way for states to generate additional revenue.

Wisconsin GOP lawmakers have advocated for an income tax cut to help offset an increase in the state’s fuel tax rate.

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Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.