FUNDING: Wisconsin lawmakers defy governor, drop transportation plan from budget

The move is a stark rebuke of Gov. Scott Walker; several other policies dropped as well

April 07, 2017
Governor Scott Walker
Governor Scott Walker

Trouble is brewing in Wisconsin, as GOP lawmakers removed a slew of provisions from the budget proposed by Governor Scott Walker—also a Republican—including the entire transportation planning portion.

The co-chairs of the Legislature's budget committee, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), removed every policy item in Walker's budget that didn't have a direct financial impact for the state. Lawmakers haven't done that to a budget from a governor of their own party since before 1993, according to the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office.

The result of this decision will either be a compromise reached independent of the governor, or a dramatic, and potentially indefinite, delay of numerous road and bridge projects across the state, notable among them the Zoo Interchange.

“I strongly applaud the move," Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Allouez) said in a statement. "I have said, for several budgets, that these items should all be stripped out and discussed through the committee process with public input, as separate legislation."

In a statement, Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the governor is pleased that lawmakers had kept his school funding plan and "welcomes the opportunity to work with lawmakers" on road funding. "He is open to many different options as long as they don't include an increase in the gas tax," Evenson said.

Other policies being dropped from the budget, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would have:

  • Made Wisconsin the only state in the nation with no requirement on schools to teach a minimum number of hours each year;
  • Required the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to establish a policy for monitoring faculty and staff teaching workloads;
  • Write into state law a 2015 statement from the Board of Regents supporting the free exchange of ideas on campus—including those considered offensive;
  • Repealed the rest of the state's so-called "prevailing wage" laws, which set minimum pay levels for private-sector workers on public works projects such as highways;
  • Made it more difficult for some victims of job discrimination to recover their legal fees from their employers and in some cases required them to pay the legal costs for their bosses; and
  • Tied funding of technical colleges to report cards on their performance.