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Wednesday, September 22, 2021
In a fact sheet released Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker said he would limit the amount of borrowing to pay for transportation projects across the state.

In a fact sheet released Tuesday, Gov. Scott Walker said he would limit the amount of borrowing to pay for transportation projects across the state.

Walker pledges to avoid unnecessary borrowing ahead of transportation funding fight

Gov. Scott Walker released a fact sheet Tuesday outlining how his administration will deal with funding transportation projects across the state, one of the key pieces of next year’s budget.

The memo affirms Walker’s commitment to minimizing the amount of borrowing for infrastructure projects, even at the expense of delaying construction.

“Governor Walker will keep borrowing low in the next transportation budget,” the fact sheet said. It provided no details as to how much borrowing Walker deemed acceptable.

Republican legislators were at odds with the governor last year over how much the state should borrow and what projects to fund or delay, including the long-delayed Zoo Interchange construction in suburban Milwaukee.

The issue threatens to persist in the next budget, which Walker will introduce in January or February. The governor has refused to consider raising taxes or imposing new fees to help ease the burden of the growing need for roads funding, a proposition which has not sat well with all of his Republican colleagues in the state Legislature.

“In some states, they’ve looked to advertising at rest areas. There’s even some states that have looked at privatizing their highway system,” Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, told UpFront with Mike Gousha on Sunday. “My position is that all options should be on the table, whether it be reducing the number of projects we’re putting forward, whether it be looking at a savings and reforms. And potentially we should also have a conversation with the citizens of Wisconsin about our revenue going forward.”

One option which the Legislature could pursue is instituting toll roads, similar to those used in Illinois or Indiana. Nygren said that while this was a palatable option, the funding boost it could provide the state would not kick in for several years.

“It would take a longer time to implement tolling because it would take congressional approval to be able to do that,” Nygren said. “So that’s not an immediate fix.”

Walker has opposed any new taxes or fees, saying he wants to uphold his commitment to Wisconsin taxpayers.

"Raising taxes and fees is not the answer," Walker said in a July statement. "Under our administration, we will keep it a priority to live within the means of the hardworking people of Wisconsin. That is a commitment I will honor.”

The state Department of Transportation will submit its initial funding request to Walker by the end of the week. DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb has said he would not ask for additional funds for his agency.

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