Wisconsin lawmakers act to protect transportation fund

| 5/19/2011

Six months after Wisconsin voters demanded that transportation funds be protected from raids, the state Senate and Assembly approved a constitutional amendment to prevent legislators from dipping into the fund.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, an estimated $1.2 billion has been swiped from the transportation fund in the past decade. The fund has borrowed to replace most of the money diverted during former Gov. Jim Doyle’s term.

“Raids on the transportation fund have been all too easy for past administrations,” Sen. Randy Hopper, R-Fond du Lac, said in a statement. He said that protecting transportation funds is vital to aiding economic development in the state.

The Senate voted 26-6 on Tuesday, May 17, to pass a proposed amendment to the state Constitution – SJR23 – that would require any money collected through the state’s fuel tax and vehicle fees to be spent on transportation projects. Assembly lawmakers quickly followed suit on an 82-11 vote.

In order for the Wisconsin Constitution to be amended state lawmakers must approve the change in two consecutive sessions. Voters would then need to approve it. The earliest the change could be made is 2013.

If recent history is any indication, public approval should not be a concern.

Fed up with the countless occurrences of state government dipping into transportation funding to help fill other budgets, Election Day 2010 gave voters in 53 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties the opportunity to make their voices heard on the importance of keeping transportation funds intact. Each county voted in favor of amending the state Constitution to prohibit transfers of money from the state’s transportation trust fund for purposes not related to transportation.

Supporters say protections are needed for counties and municipalities because they rely on general transportation aid from the state. Every time the state dips into the fund and shifts money to other programs or projects, local road maintenance and projects suffer the consequences.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wisconsin, click here.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.