Department of Transportation Budget Ignites Funding Debate

As anticipated, the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) agency budget request includes no increases to taxes or fees to increase transportation revenues, fulfilling Gov. Walker’s directive to the agency. Walker and Assembly Republicans have been publicly at odds over the agency budget request, with Walker stating he is “willing to consider any specific alternatives from Assembly leadership that live within taxpayer means” and with Assembly Republican leadership urging Walker to consider revenue increases, after first “find[ing] every cost savings possible.” Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) stated his caucus is not likely to support increasing taxes or fees absent cutting taxes elsewhere in the budget.

Assembly Committee on Transportation Chairman Keith Ripp (R-Lodi) announced he will hold a series of informational hearings on the transportation budget. No dates and locations have yet been announced, but Ripp said his intent is to “delve more deeply into the expected impacts of the current WisDOT budget request” and that he plans to contact experts and stakeholders to participate, along with the general public.

In addition, Speaker Vos (R-Rochester) has suggested perhaps the transportation budget should be considered separately from the rest of the budget, with Sen. Fitzgerald expressing such consideration could make coming to a transportation budget agreement more difficult.

It is anticipated that Walker’s DOT budget, when unveiled in 2017, will fulfill his pledge to not increase transportation revenues and that his budget proposal will contemplate the transportation budget and will be included in his overall budget bill. Like past budgets, it is anticipated that the transportation budget debate will be contentious and not subject to an easy or early resolution.