La Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – An all day session in La Crosse Monday had the goal of cultivating the best ways to fund Wisconsin transportation.
According to Craig Thompson – Governor Tony Evers’ DOT Secretary nominee – across all of their programs, funding is less than it was ten years prior, despite an ever growing amount of roadways that need attention.
“Our economy is very dependent on our interconnected transportation system,” Thompson said. “In order to meet those needs, we’re going to need to invest in our system.”
Wisconsin’s previous two-year budget levels were at $2.5 billion, however, the DOT said even just maintaining that level may not be enough.
“We’re going to manage the dollars we are bringing in as efficiently as we can, but we will be efficiently managing the deterioration of our system,” Thompson said.
In other words, unless the state finds more money for the next budget, Wisconsin roads and bridges will continue to get worse.
“The talk has always been taking the same size pie and cutting it into different size pieces,” La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson said. “We are definitely advocating for a bigger pie. We have fallen so far behind in funding for local roads and transportation infrastructure.”
A ten-year analysis showed that no increase in funding would see a 50% increase in state highways considered in “poor or below” quality.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re starting with some recommendations that others had and seeing if there’s any consensus on any of these ideas moving forward,” Thompson said.
Some of the options on the table are a rise in registration fees and/or state gas taxes, or dipping into more the state’s general fund.
Regardless of what will eventually be settled on, Thomspon said there needs to be as much transparency as possible.
“As somebody who pays the gas tax, who pays a registration fee, I am going to want to know how much more would this cost me in a year and then I’d want to know what you’re going to with my money once I send it in,” he said.
Governor Evers will use the information collected at these meetings as he formulates his budget to present to the legislature later this month.