Budget Committee Starts from Scratch on Transportation Funding

In another sign of trouble for Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to borrow more and delay road construction projects, the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee announced Thursday it would start its negotiations from scratch rather than from the governor’s road-funding proposal.

The procedural decision announced by co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee is significant because it means they are ignoring Walker’s much-criticized approach to solving a projected $1 billion Department of Transportation shortfall. The panel could still go along with Walker’s call to borrow half a billion dollars and delay projects to plug the gap, but it will be harder than the usual practice of working off the governor’s proposal.

Doing what Walker wants on roads will now require a majority vote to add it to the budget, rather than a majority vote to remove it. That is an unusual break from tradition, and especially noteworthy that the 16-member committee is controlled by Republicans — the same party as Walker.

Walker, in a prepared statement, ignored the committee’s decision to remove his roads plan and cut dozens of other proposals. Instead, he thanked them for not changing — for now — his plan to increase funding for K-12 schools by $649 million.

In all other areas of the $76 billion budget the committee will be starting from what Walker proposed and making changes from there.

Committee co-chairs also identified 83 policy items in the budget they are removing, meaning they will have to take the more difficult route of passing as stand-alone bills rather than being a part of the massive budget.