MADISON (WSAU) Governor Scott Walker’s proposed state budget would borrow over a billion-dollars – almost all of it for transportation projects. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says about $400-million would improve major highways – $300-million would re-do Milwaukee’s Zoo freeway interchange – $200-million would be borrowed to improve Milwaukee’s Hoan Bridge at the south edge of the downtown – and $60-million would be spent on rail projects.
The state transportation fund normally covers those projects. But revenues in that fund have been sagging due to less federal aid, and more fuel-efficient vehicles are driving down gas tax revenues. A task force recently called for a five-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike and numerous transportation fee increases. But Walker and his majority legislative Republicans refuse to even consider tax-or-fee hikes.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and both co-chairs of the Legislature’s Finance Committee have said they’re uncomfortable with the heavy borrowing. But Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said their only other choices are to cut projects, or find new revenues. He said major projects like the Hoan Bridge have been delayed for too long – and borrowing is favorable right now because interest rates are low.