Report: ‘No easy answers’ on transportation funding

Report: ‘No easy answers’ on transportation funding

Lawmakers are looking down the road at what they may need to do to pay for roads next year.

A new report from Assembly Republicans entitled “No Easy Answers” reaffirms that they have not found an obvious solution to a major looming hole in funding for transportation in the state.

The document was put together over the summer and shared with the press on Thursday.  Using figures from a commission on highway funding and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the report finds the potential need for at least $387 million a year to pay for major projects and maintenance, but possibly up to $1.3 billion a year to maintain current conditions.

The report outlines different scenarios of how costs could be cut or revenues raised.

“We wanted to try to put it out there so we don’t think that there is some silver bullet or magic answer,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, in an interview Friday. “We know that it’s going to require hard choices.”

The report says raising the gas tax just 1 cent would raise $33.4 million a year, a $1 increase in the vehicle registration fee would generate $4.4 million a year and a $1 license fee increase would add $1.1 million a year.  

The report also looked at other potential solutions that have been floated. It found that repealing the prevailing wage for construction projects would only save 1 percent of the cost, that roundabouts actually save money and that the state has already cut back on bike lanes and fancy roadwork.  It also says it could cost the state billions more on megaprojects if they are delayed.

“That’s why I’m a little frustrated with Gov. Walker saying we can just delay everything because that only makes the projects more expensive,” Vos said.  “I don’t want to have some kind of massive tax increase. That wouldn’t be good for our economy. But we need to at least start by discussing what those options all area and how much they generate.”

Gov. Scott Walker has said that he would veto any tax or fee increase as part of the transportation budget without an equal offset of tax reductions elsewhere.

AAA drivers have told their state organization that 70 percent of them are concerned about the condition of the state roadways.

“Paying for maintenance of the roads is going to be much cheaper for motorists than paying to repair their vehicles because roadway repair is not done,” said Nick Jarmusz, with AAA Wisconsin.

Jarmusz says his organization has not taken an official position on how revenues should be increased, but rather just that more money should be raised and no projects delayed.

Lawmakers are also waiting to see more from two major studies. An audit of the Department of Transportation was scheduled to be released in the fall.