The Wisconsin Department of Transportation 2017-2019 budget proposal released Sept. 15 includes a $447.4 million cut from state highway programs, which would delay several major highway construction projects throughout the state, and an increase of nearly $70 million for maintenance and $65 million for local governments. The agency would also authorize $500 million in new borrowing (down from $850 million authorized in 2015).
The proposal meets Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) goal of not increasing taxes, but several lawmakers from both sides dissented with the plan, accusing the governor of further “kicking the can down the road” and delaying needed investment to improve the state’s transportation infrastructure.
Earlier this summer, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that four major highway projects in the state had exceeded their budget allocations by a combined $700 million, largely due to delays caused by lack of funding. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation also estimates that the cost of building the projects has increased by 25 percent over the past six years, emphasizing the importance for the state to eliminate future delays from highway projects.
According to the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Wisconsin’s transportation fund is facing a $939 million revenue shortfall for the 2017-2019 budget.