Gov. Walker: Safety, Maintenance Will Be Transportation Priorities

June 16, 2016

by Gov. Scott Walker

This column originally appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Good roads and bridges are important to Wisconsin and our economy. Since we took office, more than $18 billion has been invested into our transportation system, and we increased the amount sent to local governments to help maintain their infrastructure in 2015.

In contrast, former Gov. Jim Doyle raided $1.4 billion from the transportation fund. Along with voters, we helped pass a constitutional amendment in 2014 to ensure that never happens again, and we’ve paid back hundreds of millions in raided funds as we worked to put our fiscal house back in order.

Long before I first took office, the state was spending a major portion of the transportation budget on huge projects in southeastern Wisconsin. Going forward, improving traffic safety and the maintenance of existing infrastructure will be our priorities. We can do this by not spending billions on new major highway projects over the coming years and realizing savings at every opportunity.

There has been a lot of talk recently by some who believe we should raise the gas tax so politicians in Madison can spend more of your hard-earned money. That is not leadership. During the 2014 campaign, I made it clear I would not support a gas tax increase or a vehicle registration increase without a corresponding decrease in other state taxes. I will not raise the overall tax burden on the hardworking people of Wisconsin.

Keeping my word is incredibly important. So is keeping the state’s economy headed in the right direction. At the time of this writing, the average price of unleaded gas in Wisconsin is $2.50 per gallon. Of that, 30.9 cents are state taxes. According to the American Petroleum Institute, which tracks gas taxes across the 50 states, Wisconsin is in the top 10 for the highest gas excise tax in the nation. If you include federal taxes and fees, Wisconsin drivers are paying more than 50 cents in taxes per gallon. Jacking up taxes would throw a wet blanket on our economic growth.

According to the most recent numbers available from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, more than 97% of our most heavily traveled highways are rated in fair or above fair condition. These roads carry roughly half of all traffic and 70% of our freight.

For me, it’s simple. A family doesn’t add a major addition to their home if they don’t see a pay raise. Instead, they use current wages to make sure their home is safe and to cover basic maintenance. The same is true with transportation.

Read the rest of Gov. Walker’s column here.