Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a $73 billion dollar state budget July 12, a day before announcing that he would join 14 other Republicans as a candidate for president of the United States.
The budget is for the upcoming biennium and would impact transportation spending.
Future transportation spending in Wisconsin was scaled back by the time the state Legislature passed the revised budget July 9 by a vote of 52-46. The Legislature rejected Walker’s proposal to invest $1.3 billion in transportation, settling on $850 million for projects instead.
“Gov. Walker’s original budget proposal authorized enough bonding to continue work on Wisconsin’s transportation projects in order to ensure they are funded and on time,” Laurel Patrick, Walker's press secretary, told Transport Topics. “As legislators discussed reducing bonding for transportation from the state budget, our office communicated that reduced bonding will negatively impact the transportation fund and transportation projects across the state as a ripple effect.”
According to Patrick, while a larger transportation budget would have been preferred, the governor’s office indicated to legislators that if they chose to reduce bonding for transportation in the budget, Walker would sign it.
Peter Skopec, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group director, praised the budget’s halt of mega-expansion projects, saying that it will benefit taxpayers.
“One of the things that we’ve been criticizing for a long time is that a lot of these projects … are based on really shaky traffic projections that weren’t adding up,” Skopec said. “The DOT in many cases had that track record, for over a decade now, of overprojecting future traffic and then justifying highway extensions based on those incorrect projections.”
Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation made no comment about the projections. The agency did say, however, that it is working on analyzing the impact of the budget reduction. “We’re still in this process where it’s going to take a little bit of time to do our own analysis here before we can determine impacts,” said Rob Miller of WisDOT's Office of Public Affairs.