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Budget work started, transportation costs a concern


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) -- Wisconsin’s Legislature may be out of session, but lawmakers are still working towards the next session. That’s true even for the elected officials that have to campaign this summer.

Nekoosa Republican Scott Krug says many are trying to get started on the next state budget.  “The big thing right now that we’ve been working with our local (leaders) on is getting ready for the next state budget.  Something we haven’t really done in the last couple of sessions is get ready ahead of time, so it’s just fast and furious working on it already.”

Several legislators including Krug say the elephant in the room when it’s time to talk about the budget is the projected transportation funding shortfall.  “Transportation. That’s the big ticket right now, and trying to find ways to repair our local roads at good value for the taxpayers, and making sure our Constitutional amendment for not raiding the transportation funds is set before we make any wide sweeping changes to transportation funding.”

More efficient vehicles combined with many drivers putting on less miles means the fuel tax isn’t bringing in enough money to pay for road work. That means lawmakers have to find different ways to pay for projects and have more scrutiny over which projects get funded. Krug doesn’t want to see a lot of new construction right now.  “My big focus right now is to make sure that we’re not spending it all on major new construction projects and looking more at maintenance projects. You know, the funding mechanism aside, I think the focus maintaining what we have first before building more is going to be the biggest priority.”

There is one new construction project that Krug would like to see built, and that’s the Highway 54 Wisconsin Rapids bypass with a Port Edwards crossing of the Wisconsin River.  “I’ve heard there’s some pretty good chances that now that we’ve had some development in Port Edwards that we’ll see that project come to fruition in this budget, so I’m really hopeful we can figure out a way to get that funding back in place for more rural type projects like that one. That’s my number one goal this session is get that thing done.”  The Senate and Assembly approved the new bridge, but it didn't make the Governor's final budget.

There has been discussion about how to raise enough money to fund transportation, including tollways, higher fuel taxes, higher registration fees, or paying registration based on miles driven. So far, none of these concepts have been supported widely in the Legislature.