NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Governor Walker has an interesting budget decision to make. It concerns funding for the state highway construction fund. The state has many road projects on the planning board – and not enough money to pay for them. The state will have a shortfall of about $5-billion over the next decade.
What are the possibilities? Governor Walker, who is usually rock-solid against tax increases, used an interesting choice of words when he said “there isn’t an appetite [in the legislature] for raising the gas tax.” Toll roads, something new assembly speaker Robin Vos is willing to consider, is a non-starter under federal law. Or, the state’s wish list could be trimmed down. Some projects that are deemed non-essential could be dropped. Others could be delayed, or be reconfigured to cost less.
This is a tricky choice because the state’s highway builders, a powerful lobby, are Walker supporters. Many of the highway projects that are in the pipeline were dreamed up by the construction industry with the state’s blessing. They see the state’s transportation fund as their private account. (Hence the opposition to the Milwaukee-Madison train. Road-builders don’t want to compete with other modes of transportation for their money.)
The right choice is to scale back. Wisconsin is not getting out of the road-building business. We’re living within our means. That’s been the message for Scott Walker’s political opponents since he got into office. It’s the right message for his friends, too.