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April 24, 2017 2:50 PM, EDT

Wisconsin Governor Backs Using General Fund Taxes for Roads

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Gov. Scott Walker said April 24 he has no interest in raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees in the budget, but he supports using general fund taxes to help pay for roads.

Walker previously said he would veto a gas tax increase, but hasn't made the same commitment about a fee increase. However, he said lawmakers aren't discussing raising fees.

"I’m not proposing nor do I think we’re going to have a gas tax or vehicle registration fee as part of this budget," Walker said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, (R-Rochester), has quarreled publicly with Walker over how to address a shortfall in the state transportation fund. Vos has argued for keeping all options on the table, including a possible gas tax increase offset by tax cuts in other parts of the budget.

Walker once backed that approach but has more recently said he will veto a gas tax increase.

Walker said he has repeatedly told legislative leadership there is general tax revenue, which pays for education, environmental regulation and other state government agencies, that can be used to pay for transportation, which is mostly funded through user fees such as the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

He pointed to shifting funding for public transit as one example where general fund taxes could be used instead of transportation fund dollars.

Walker didn't say where the general fund taxes would come from, though lawmakers are expecting the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to provide updated revenue projections in May. That could provide additional revenue without having to reduce Walker's proposed increases in K-12 and college funding.

Last month Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald floated using general tax dollars to pay for transportation borrowing. Walker's budget includes $500 million in new borrowing for roads, though Republican lawmakers have raised concerns that doing so will result in about 23% of the transportation fund being spent on debt payments by 2019.

Walker also said April 24 he would support some changes to his budget proposal that school districts comply with Act 10 in order to receive additional state aid, but given the amount of the increase, "I certainly hope they keep some measure in."

Walker also reiterated his timeline for announcing his plans to run for a third term in 2018, saying, "I’ll make that official sometime after the budget."

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