Sunday, April 2, 2017

WisGOPs growing different Bubbles on DOT funding

As Wisconsin's Joint Finance Committee held its budget hearings last week and potholes continue to sprout up throughout the state as the rains keep coming, the subject of how to handle the state's deficit-ridden Transportation Fund re-emerged into a fight between the top Republicans in the state.

Governor Scott Walker's budget does not have any increases to the state's gas tax or registration fees, but also relies on delays in road projects and somehow plans to keep other projects on track while spending less money on them. This has angered Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos, who wants to keep promises to the Road Builder lobby increase Transportation Fund revenues to remove some of the backlog in projects, and has floated a scheme to cut General Fund revenues to make up the difference (no, I don't get how that math adds up).

But Vos's stance isn't flying with Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Governor Walker, who want to stay on the good side of DC lobbyist Grover Norquist to help their chances of higher office at a later time.
Vos and other GOP leaders in the Assembly, and some Republican senators, have been outspoken in saying the Legislature and Walker should be open to higher taxes and vehicle fees to keep road projects on track and reduce the $500 million in borrowing the governor is proposing.

"I'm not going to let the threat of a veto stop the discussion from even happening when our caucus actually has a position, and the Senate is still muddled with their own ideas," Vos said.

But Fitzgerald all but slammed the door on the possibility of the Senate overriding a veto on Thursday.

"We're not going to override Governor Walker on a veto," Fitzgerald told reporters. "It's just not part of the dynamic that exists for a Republican-controlled Legislature to override Governor Walker. It's just not going to happen. Work with him up front, try and get some concessions or changes that make sense for us, and that's where we need to negotiate from."

Walker initially said he would be open to gas tax and fee increases to pay for roads if there were corresponding cuts elsewhere in the budget. But he shifted in his position in February, saying he outright opposed any gas tax hike. And on Wednesday night, while Republicans on the budget-writing committee were voicing support for higher taxes, he tweeted a veto threat if they did that.
And one of the solutions Fitzgerald floated on Friday would mess things up for the rest of the budget- Fitz wants to borrow money from the General Fund to pay for DOT needs. This would add to the state's already record-high debt, and would have the extra problem of adding to the $1 billion structural deficit in the General Fund for the next budget. But the fact that Fitzgerald would even think about such an idiotic plan shows how boxed in and confused the WisGOPs are, and how they are incapable of dealing with real-world problems.

None of these GOP poses seem likely to solve the real problems of deteriorating roads, nor of the lack of available funding in either the General or Transportation funds. And barring a bailout from DC in the form of a major increase in infrastructure spending from the Trump Administration (good luck getting that through THIS Congress, or any budget bill for that matter), it looks like this Transportation funding dispute is going to be a central item in the budget talks for the next 3 months...or much longer if Walker continues to care more about DC lobbyists and stink tankers over what happens on Wisconsin's roads.

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