Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

No more raids? Let’s ask the voters

State budget

During three consecutive biennial state budgets, Governor Doyle raided the state’s Transportation Fund. Here is the history, provided by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) in an informational paper it published during January 2009:

“The 2003-05 budget act used a combination of direct appropriations from the transportation fund for general fund programs (shared revenue and K-12 education aids) and a transfer of revenues from the transportation fund to the general fund, for a total of $675.0 million.”

First raid = $675 million.

Back to the LFB:

“The 2005-07 biennial budget act made a transfer of $427.0 million from the transportation fund to the general fund, but did not make any direct appropriations from the transportation fund to general fund programs.”

Second raid = $427 million.

Again, the LFB:

“The 2007-09 budget act (Act 20) and the 2008-09 budget adjustment act (Act 226) together resulted in a transfer of $155 million from the transportation fund to the general fund. “

Third raid = $155 million.

The six-year total of transfers and appropriations from the transportation fund = $1.257 billion.

The LFB reports the use of replacement bonds offset the transfers ($865.5 million), however the debt service paid from the transportation fund during the 2003-05 biennium ($43.9 million) adds to the loss.

The LFB concludes, “Therefore, the total loss to the transportation fund over the six years equals $435.4 million.”

That’s $435.4 million unavailable for the use it was intended: road projects statewide.

The raids have triggered a call for counties to hold advisory referenda this fall asking for an end to the transfers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

A coalition of groups is pushing for advisory referendums this fall in counties statewide to urge lawmakers to change the state constitution and keep their hands off the transportation fund in response to $1.2 billion being drained from the account.

Waukesha County could be among the first counties to put a question on the November ballot asking voters if the Wisconsin Constitution should be amended to bar the state from using gas taxes to balance the state budget.

Supporters of the plan hope dozens of counties will hold and pass referendums this fall, which they say would inspire lawmakers to start changing the constitution.

The move comes as lawmakers are struggling to find funds for all the projects they want to do. Work has begun on I-94 from Milwaukee to the state line; plans are in place to rebuild the Zoo Interchange starting in 2016; and some lawmakers are lobbying for a $1 billion plan to widen I-39/90 from Dane County to the state line. Meanwhile, officials are scheduling a host of smaller projects around the state.”

Mark me down in support of putting the referendum questions on the ballot and voting yes to stop the transportation fund raids.

Read more in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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