MADISON, Wis. - Sweeping changes are being proposed for the Department of Transportation in hopes of finding cost savings, but legislative leaders aren’t hopeful it would break a budget logjam.
The lawmakers proposing the changes have been arguing for a while that changes need to be made at the DOT before any new revenue is considered for the department.
The proposed changes come after an audit found issues with cost estimates and some engineering and contracting processes in construction work.
The new bill would repeal prevailing wage laws, allow local governments to impose wheel taxes and require their approval for roundabouts, and possible change the DOT bidding system, allowing projects to have a single contractor on all phases of a project.
“We just felt like this was important to keep in the discussion on the front lines and say, 'Before we spend too much time looking at revenue raisers, let’s make sure we’ve done everything we possibly can to make sure that state government, in this case the DOT, is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible,'” Rep. Rob Hutton, R-Brookfield, said.
The bill would also limit the number of in-house DOT engineers to 20 percent, to hold down the number of positions, despite DOT numbers in previous years showing it is more expensive to outsource projects.
The Wisconsin State Engineers Association said in a statement that the bill “puts highway engineering on a policy roundabout to revisit the past.”
A spokesperson for the DOT said Secretary Dave Ross has been working on efficiencies and welcomes all ideas.
Republican leaders signaled support for some of these ideas, but said they were not enough to solve the immediate transportation budget concerns.