CHICAGO - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Friday his next two-year budget will provide an $824 million boost in transportation infrastructure funding.
On Friday, the Republican governor who enjoys Republican control of the Legislature announced that overall funding for transportation will total $6.4 billion in the spending plan he is set to unveil Wednesday for the fiscal biennium beginning July 1.
"My budget will invest in Wisconsin's strong network of roads, bridges, highways, ports, airports, and freight rail," he said in a statement. "We are investing for the long term. An efficient, safe transportation system is necessary for growing our economy and creating jobs."
Transportation proponents have been clamoring for more funding and a constitutional amendment that would protect against future raids on existing transportation fund dollars is making its way through the Legislature.
A recent report commissioned by the Legislature recommended spending at least $480 million more annually over the next 10 years to stave off deterioration of the state's transportation system.
Walker did not provide detail as to how the state would finance the increase saying he would prioritize existing funding streams. During a public appearance, he said the additional spending could be supported by revenue growth and there are no plans to raise the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.
Projects slated for funding include $550 million for the Zoo Interchange Project in southeastern Wisconsin, $236 million for the Hoan Bridge and I-794 Freeway, and $60 million for freight railroad preservation.
The state has typically paid for transportation-related projects on a pay-as-you-go basis from transportation fund revenues, general fund borrowing, and through transportation revenue bonds issuance.
The state recently issued $246 million of new-money and refunding transportation revenue bonds. The program carries ratings of AA-plus from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's and Aa2 from Moody's Investors Service.
The commission's report warned that without a fresh infusion of new revenues, the cost of repaying transportation debt is expected to consume about one-quarter of all state transportation revenues by 2023 if the current borrowing pace is maintained. The state's current two-year budget relied on a total of $764 million in general fund and transportation revenue debt issuance.