GOP Divided as State Transportation Fund Faces $1 Billion Shortfall

road workPreviously we posted about the potential impact on school funding of the lack of consensus between the governor and GOP lawmakers on how to fix the state’s transportation fund.  Now the co-chairman of the state’s budget committee has released a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo detailing a $939 million shortfall in transportation funding in the next biennium (the amount the state would have to find to keep funding at current level).

State Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) put out a statement that called for finding a sustainable solution to maintaining Wisconsin’s infrastructure and implored the governor to consider additional avenues of funding.

Governor Walker responded that he will not support new taxes or fees as a solution.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, top Republican legislators, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) have said they hope the 2017-19 state budget yields a fix in the form of a significant funding boost for roads. GOP lawmakers have signaled a willingness to consider increasing taxes to do so. But Walker has held to the stance that he will not increase fuel or other transportation taxes without spending cuts of equal or greater amounts elsewhere in the budget.

This issue is of concern to public school leaders because the state’s transportation fund has increasingly been gobbling up dollars from the state’s general fund–the fund that pays out school aids, among other things. The more state general fund money siphoned away to fund roads and other transportation projects, the less state general fund money available, potentially, for aid to public schools.

If lawmakers and the governor don’t find a way to put the state on a path toward a more sustainable funding mechanism for transportation, it may be harder for them to find money to invest in public schools.

Read More: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Wisconsin State Journal