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Walker promises record increase in transportation aid to local governments

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Gov. Scott Walker addresses a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers during the Governor’s State of the State speech at the state Capitol on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Gov. Scott Walker is doubling down on his promise to not increase the state gas tax or vehicle registration fees.

“Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you can respect that I will keep my word,” he said during Tuesday’s State of the State speech in Madison. “We were not sent here by the people of Wisconsin to raise taxes.”

Instead of increasing the state’s gas tax and other revenue sources, Walker promised to send a record amount of transportation aid to local governments in the state’s next budget. He said the amount will add up to “the largest increase in transportation aids since the 1990s” to local government and that the safety and upkeep of the state’s infrastructure will be one of his priorities in the coming year.

Walker said his plan for the next budget involves an investment of 25 percent more than the last budget for the Local Road Improvement Program, $65 million in new aid to local governments and “the largest increase to the Local Bridge Improvement Program in over 20 years.”

“Local governments can use these funds to fix roads and bridges and potholes in their community,” he said.

He also said his plan would provide “more money than ever before” for state highway rehabilitation.

Walker had previously announced his plans to give local governments a record amount of transportation aid in the state’s next biennial budget, scheduled to take effect July 1. Critics have said that money is being used as a sop to gain goodwill for plans that, if left unchanged, would cause delays to various long-planned projects such as the Zoo Interchange west of Milwaukee’s downtown.

One of Walker and the Legislature’s chief difficulties this year will be the $1 billion shortfall that is expected to appear in the state’s next transportation budget. Some Republicans have said ideas such as tax and fee increases should be considered. Other Republicans, including Walker, have balked at those ideas.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

About Erika Strebel

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for The Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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