Wisconsin's Constitution would be amended to prevent the state's road fund from being spent on anything else, under a measure that passed the State Assembly Tuesday.
The road-building lobby first started pushing the idea of the constitutional amendment after former Governor Jim Doyle used the transportation fund repeatedly to pay other state bills. A 2009 memo from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showed Doyle's budgets used $1.3 billion out of the road fund to pay for other expenses. Lodi Assembly Republican Keith Ripp says that ultimately hinders road projects that help Wisconsin's economy. "The longer we allow this money to be moved from one account to the other, the harder it will be to maintain the impressive transportation system we have in this state."
So-called "raids" of the transportation fund stopped in Governor Walker's first budget, but other raids did not. Walker's budget shifted money out of a variety of funds to pay other expenses, including roughly $160 million out of the general fund, which pays for schools and health care. Assembly Democrat Janet Bewley said enshrining one fund at the expense of others was a bad idea, "There are many, many funds that we could raise to this level of Constitutional protection. And yet we choose transportation instead of so many others, including education."
Despite those objections, the bill passed on a bipartisan 83-to-13 vote. The proposal heads next to the state Senate. If it passes there, voters would have the final say in November 2014.