State Rep. Mark Gottlieb, R-Port Washington, will take over as the next Wisconsin Department of Transportation secretary when Gov.-elect Scott Walker takes office Monday.
Gottlieb has experience — both politically and professional — in transportation policy, having served as a civil engineer 20 years before taking state office. As a state representative, Gottlieb served as a member of the Transportation Projects Commission and co-chaired the Road to the Future committee tasked with reviewing the state’s transportation financial needs.
As WisDOT secretary, Gottlieb said his first obstacle will be overcoming a projected $92 million transportation budget shortfall. Furthermore, he said he will look into revising the department’s next budget requests before Walker proposes the state’s next budget in February.
Gottlieb said the financial concerns are not specific to the state’s transportation budget.
“We have the same budget challenges in transportation we have in almost every area of state government,” he said. “We will figure out how to deal with potential shortfalls.”
Despite the complications, Gottlieb said he will not consider raising the state’s motor fuel tax that accounts for much of the transportation budget. That includes not reinstating gas indexing, which incrementally increases the gas tax each year based on inflation.
The state repealed gas tax indexing in 2006.
Gottlieb said he was not prepared to detail what cuts, if any, he would make on WisDOT programs and projects, but said he expects some changes to the budget request the agency already submitted.
“Clearly, the governor is going to want to put his own stamp on the budget,” he said. “It’s going to be his budget.”
Gottlieb said he still supports four projects he approved as a TPC member, including a $715 million Interstate 39-90 expansion project; work on U.S. Highway 10 and WIS 441 in Winnebago County; WIS 38 in Milwaukee and Racine counties; and WIS 15 in Outagamie County.
“The rate those are built will always vary a bit depending on state resources,” he said. “When they actually get approved by the state Legislature depends on a lot of things, including where we stand on resources.”