Wisconsin’s budget committee, the Joint Committee on Finance, is set to finish its work on the Wisconsin biennial budget after not meeting for more than a month due to disagreements over various items within the budget. As of the date of this article’s drafting, the Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to convene on the final items within the budget that still have yet to be addressed. Most notably, the Transportation Fund and the amount of bonding to allow this biennium toward transportation projects.
The transportation agreement announced today includes $500 million in bonding with another $350 million the committee can issue as the Department of Transportation submits requests for work. That would still be a significant reduction from the $1.3 billion in borrowing Governor Walker proposed.
Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington) said during this morning’s news conference the reduction would be felt fairly evenly between out-state projects and the Zoo Interchange. Still work on the core of the Zoo wouldn’t be affected; rather work on the north leg would be delayed. Vos also said the package will include a study looking at other revenue sources for transportation, including the possibility of tolling.
The Governor’s budget called for $392.1 million in transportation bonding for southeast mega projects, a category that currently covers the zoo. Overall, he called for $623.2 million in funding for the project with federal dollars and other state money factored in.
Walker’s plan also called for $1.6 billion in the state highway rehabilitation fund, $242.4 million of that through bonding, and $836.1 million for major projects, including $624.5 million in transportation fund borrowing.
Representative John Nygren (R-Peshtigo), Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee, added more details to how the reductions in bonding will be felt. He said in addition to a roughly $200 million reduction in bonding for the zoo, about another $200 million reduction would be split between the rehabilitation fund and majors, which covers large projects outside of southeast Wisconsin.
Walker’s budget also called for $43 million in transportation fund borrowing for freight rail with no bonding for harbors. Nygren said the committee will move some bonding from the freight rail designation to harbors.
The Assembly is targeting Tuesday or Wednesday to take up the budget bill in its entirety, but it is still uncertain when the Senate will take up the bill. Majority Leader Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has stated that he still doesn’t have enough votes in his house to pass the budget bill.
Authored by Erin Krueger, WAMA Lobbyist. Erin Krueger Consulting, LLC is a government relations and trade association management firm in Madison, Wisconsin. The firm assist our clients in navigating the political process and by effectively communicating their legislative needs with elected officials. EK Consulting also is a trade association management firm, assisting clients in their organization’s events and management needs.