Governor Makes Veto Threat as Republican Lawmakers Heighten Transportation Fight

Gov. Scott Walker used his Twitter account late Wednesday to threaten his Republican legislative colleagues as they were briefed on his plan for the state’s next transportation budget, vowing to veto a gas tax increase if lawmakers defy Walker’s no-new-tax plan.

Walker’s tweet upended Wednesday night’s budget hearing in which lawmakers, many of them Republicans, squared off with his Department of Transportation Secretary, Dave Ross. In the hearing, lawmakers on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee roundly battered Walker’s proposed transportation budget for the two-year period starting in July.

The tense exchange deepened fissures among statehouse Republicans on how to square a growing imbalance in Wisconsin’s transportation-funding ledger.

Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, said the state can’t keep delaying highway projects or borrowing to fund them. Olson said lawmakers “are prepared to bite the bullet and raise some revenue” for transportation, but leadership from the DOT is needed. “We’re going to be spiraling down into a hole where it will cost us so much to get our roads into shape, that we’ll never get it done,” Olsen said.

Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, said townships in her rural district are hurting for road and bridge funds.

“If you can find savings, we’re going to be there with you,” the committee’s co-chairman, Rep. John Nygren, told Ross. “But simply reforms are not going to fix the problem.”

Walker’s tweet appears to ratchet up his showdown with some of his GOP legislative colleagues who have remained open to increasing gas taxes or vehicle fees — the two main sources of revenue for the state’s transportation fund. Previously, Walker only said he would veto any increase to gas or other taxes not offset by cuts to other taxes in the budget.

“Let’s be clear. I don’t support spending less on K-12 education than what’s in my budget and I will veto a gas tax increase,” Walker’s tweet read.