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April 14, 2017 10:00 AM, EDT

Lower Costs for Wisconsin Road Projects Frees Up $100 Million for State’s Next DOT Budget

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Lower-than-expected costs for road projects and a revenue bump will free up more than $100 million for the next Department of Transportation budget, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced April 13.

Walker’s DOT also is expediting 21 road and bridge maintenance projects to receive funding in the current state fiscal year, which ends June 30. The projects, totaling $65 million, had been scheduled for future years.

New forecasts call for $38 million more revenue than previously projected for the state transportation fund from the current fiscal year through the next two-year budget cycle, ending in June 2019. The fund’s revenues come primarily from fuel tax collections and vehicle registration fees.

Walker, in a statement, hailed these developments as signs of fiscal prudence in the DOT.

Republican lawmakers who control the state Assembly also praised the news. But Rep. John Nygren, who co-chairs the Legislature’s budget-writing committee, said in a statement that the $38 million increase is small in the context of the transportation fund, which receives about $2 billion in annual revenue.

“While only a 0.7% increase in the total transportation revenue, we are committed to ensuring this revenue will be spent wisely,” Nygren said.

Citing a backlog of costly highway projects, Nygren, (R-Marinette), and other leading Assembly Republicans have pushed for consideration of new transportation revenues, likely through a tax or fee hike.

Walker’s proposal for the next state budget does not increase taxes or fees, and he has said he would veto a gas tax increase if lawmakers pass one.

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