By Lisa Pett
Governor Scott Walker hit the roads in Central Wisconsin on Thursday to unveil details of the state’s upcoming two-year Department of Transportation budget.
Stopping in Plover, where the first phase of the Post Rd. project is scheduled to finish in November, the governor presented a plan that he says provides a $65 million increase in local aid for local transportation projects around the state.
Cash-strapped municipalities in Central Wisconsin have been searching for ways to pay for street repairs and road maintenance. While Wausau’s city council will send the issue of a wheel tax to voters in a referendum, Stevens Point’s city leaders discussed a wheel tax at Tuesday’s meeting, unanimously decided against the issue.
Walker’s budget proposal, which is part of the state’s overall budgeting process for 2017-2019 will have to go before the state assembly, where Republican leaders are not as enthusiastic about a plan that cuts $447 million from the state highway projects and adding $500 million in debt.
Republican Speaker Robin Voss says the plan, “kicks the can down the road,” and delays major state projects like the Milwaukee Zoo interchange project and work on I-94 in Madison.
The governor insists that this plan offers the largest increase to county and city governments since 1999, while not raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.
Brushing aside criticism from his own party, Walker likened his DOT budget plan to home renovations.
“You focus on keeping it safe and maintaining it,” he said, “and if you have ideas for major improvements, you get to those when you have the money to pay for it. We are paying for it as we go.”