Wisconsin has the highway blues

Political beat

Gov. Scott Walker has ruled out significant increases in state-collected revenue for the state’s struggling highway and road system in the 2017-’19 state budget.

Transportation secretary Mark Gottlieb said that means a delay in major road construction and upkeep on all but the state’s most-traveled roads.

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Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation provided data showing Wisconsin roads were among the worst in the nation.

Gottlieb said he expects the Walker administration to focus on bridges and key roads, such as the interstate highways and major arteries.

The rest of the highway system – about 90 percent – “is going to continue to deteriorate in condition,” Gottlieb told the Wisconsin State Journal.

In the past, Walker has favored borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars for road construction and repairs. Initially, the governor requested $1.3 billion in borrowing for the current biennium. The GOP-controlled Legislature reluctantly gave him $850 million in road-borrowing authority.

Now, 20 percent of the license fee and gasoline tax revenue is directed to pay off the transportation bonds.

Walker hinted he may seek additional road borrowing in the next biennium. He declined to suggest how much he might consider.

Walker has said the only way he’d approve higher transportation taxes or fees would be if other state taxes were reduced.

-Matt Pommer is the “dean” of Capitol correspondents in Madison. His column is published with permission from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, but does not reflect the views or opinions of the WNA or its member newspapers.

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