Gov. Scott Walker has proposed holding transportation funding steady in this coming two-year budget and, at the same time, his budget green-lights some new major road projects.
Walker's proposal calls for not adding any positions in the department, getting rid of some long-vacant positions and shifting some state sales tax money to the transportation fund to fund some major transportation projects. Those projects include the Milwaukee zoo interchange and an expansion of the interstate between Beloit and Madison.
When asked whether the state would consider forgoing some projects in the interests of being more cost-effective, Gottlieb said that's not an option.
"I think we can create a resource plan that will allow us to deliver the program. The highway program that has been put together is an important part of the governor's plan to grow the economy and create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin. It's not an option for us just to say, 'Well, we can't meet our obligations. We can't preserve and maintain the state's infrastructure,'" Gottlieb said.
Lawmakers will consider the transportation budget this week, in light of the numbers WISC-TV showed them.
"In general, I never want to waste taxpayer dollars. So if it's less expensive and we can get the exact same job done using a person who is a state employee versus someone who is an outside contract, I think we should do that," said Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington, co-chair of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.
"Certainly if we can put more resources into having state workers do this job for less and do it better, than we have an absolute responsibility to move in that direction," said Rep. Tamara Grigsby, D-Milwaukee.
An audit done by the state in 2009 showed that at one point consultants were doing 70 percent of state projects, sparking concern from lawmakers at that time but no action.
But it remains to be seen if there will be any changes this week in the state budget addressing the issue.
"Nobody has brought an idea to me that has an easy answer that we can include inside the budget, but I am very open if people do have those ideas," Vos said.
The State Engineering Association said it told the Governor's Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse about the issue.
"If it keeps showing that the private sector costs more, then do something about it," Klipstein said.
A spokesman for the governor confirmed that consulting costs are being discussed. The Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse has a preliminary report due on July 1.