According to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the transportation funding problem is well known and it continues to go unsolved. But this view is not universally shared by Governor Scott Walker. The question of transportation spending, debt, taxes and safety are all front and center in this year's biennial State Budget, to the tune of about $1 billion.
The rising level of transportation debt has made some state policymakers reluctant to borrow for ongoing remodeling and building needs at prisons, on campuses and in state offices. During 2011-2015 new state bonding for such projects averaged nearly $1 billion in biennial budgets. In 2015-2017, that dropped to $101 million and in 2017-2019, it will be about $450 million, less than half of the 2011-2015 average.
The question remains, if you have to borrow, what is the highest and best use of state funds? Roads, prisons, UW-System buildings or state office buildings? If you don't have to borrow and believe spending can't be cut in other areas, what will you tax?
Regardless of which side of the argument you fall, politicians of all stripes likely agree that Wisconsin is a national leader in three transportation heavy industries: manufacturing, agriculture and trucking. Given these economic realities, many argue that collaboration in finding a sustainable solution to the state's transportation finance dilemma is necessary sooner rather than later.