. Wisconsin State Journal
Credit the Legislature's Republican-controlled budget committee for keeping two vital road projects on pace in south-central Wisconsin: the reconstruction of Highway 151 (Verona Road) south of Madison's Beltline, and the expansion of Interstate 39-90 from Madison to Beloit.
Unfortunately, top GOP lawmakers agreed to borrow more than $400 million over the next two years to help make that happen. And they cut $79 million for state highway rehabilitation while delaying some big projects in southeastern Wisconsin.
Overall, the state's road system - already one of the worst in the nation - is expected to further deteriorate under this state budget, according to state Department of Transportation predictions last year that were based on status quo funding.
Gov. Scott Walker is the main impediment to better roads. He has refused to raise the state gas tax or vehicle registration fee, even though they've been flat for the last decade. He also has ignored suggestions from his own DOT for modernizing the state's revenue stream to reflect changing technology.
The closest the budget committee came last week to trying to fix an ongoing funding gap between transportation needs and stalled revenue is a $2.5 million study of open-road tolling on major highways, and higher fees on hybrid and electric vehicles.
Tolling the interstates could bring in tens of billions of dollars over time for better roads, with more money coming from Illinois tourists and over-the-road trucks.
But for the next two years, Republican lawmakers are planning - yet again, and largely at the governor's direction - to punt the state's transportation funding shortfall into the future.
That's irresponsible. ...
So overall, the Republican-run Legislature hasn't come close to fixing its chronic road funding problem. The governor has decided the political advantage of saying "no" to any new taxes or fees affecting most drivers is better than properly maintaining a modern road system for our economy.
The transportation budget heading to the governor's desk once again dodges fiscal responsibility in favor of political expediency.