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Lawmaker wants to use lottery windfall for local roads

Manuel Franco of West Allis, Wis., winner of second-highest Powerball lottery in history, attends a news conference at the Wisconsin Department of Revenue in Madison, Wis., on Tuesday, April 23, 2019. At right is Peter Barca, state secretary of revenue, and at right is Cindy Polzin, state lottery director. Franco claimed the cash option payout of the prize, totaling approximately $477 million before taxes. The overall jackpot of the prize, drawn March 22, was $768,400. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Manuel Franco of West Allis is the winner of third-highest Powerball lottery in history. Franco claimed the cash option payout of the prize, totaling about $477 million before taxes. Now, state Sen. Tim Carpenter wants the state to cash in on the lottery taxes by putting the money toward local road improvements. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

The $768.4 million lottery jackpot that a West Allis resident claimed this week will buy plenty of speedboats and sports cars.

But one Wisconsin lawmaker wants to put the state’s take from those winnings toward something a little less flashy: local roads.

State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, said Wednesday that he’s drafting a bill to direct Wisconsin’s $36.5 million cut of the jackpot toward local road programs. On Tuesday, state officials announced that 24-year-old Manuel Franco, of West Allis, was the lone winner of the $768 million Powerball drawing, the third-largest lottery prize in U.S. history.

Franco said on Tuesday that he plans to take his winnings in a lump-sum, leaving him with $326 million after taxes. Wisconsin’s cut of the Powerball jackpot will be $36.5 million, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. And Carpenter said in an interview Wednesday that he’d like to direct that windfall to Wisconsin’s dilapidated local roads.

“We haven’t dealt with the transportation crisis in years, several sessions,” Carpenter said. “In the meantime, the roads continue to deteriorate. People don’t want to increase taxes.

“Since this is such a huge windfall, we should send it to local roads,” he added.

In 2017, Wisconsin lawmakers deadlocked on how to pay for Wisconsin roads, delaying the adoption of the state’s current biennial budget by several months. Road spending is again a flash-point in ongoing budget negotiations between the newly elected governor, Tony Evers, and Republican lawmakers in the state Legislature.

Evers, in his proposed biennial budget, wants to raise the state’s gas tax and other fees to pay for an additional $608 million in road spending. Republicans have favored other forms of drumming up transportation revenue, such as tolling, and have vowed to introduce a biennial budget of their own.

Critics of the state’s recent infrastructure spending blame former Gov. Scott Walker for budgets that under-funded the state’s roads, contributing to the state’s having one of their worst rankings for road quality.

Voters, meanwhile, appear to be lukewarm about paying more for roads. In a Marquette University Law School Poll released on April 10, 57% of the respondents said they would prefer keeping gas taxes and vehicle-registration fees where they are, and only 39% said they support raising taxes in exchange for increased spending on roads and highways.

Patty Mayers, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, said lottery winnings in Wisconsin are taxed like paychecks — the state and the federal government each take a cut. Whatever money Wisconsin gets goes into the state’s general fund.

Mayer said Wisconsin’s cut of Franco’s lottery winnings should appear in the state’s general fund “soon.” and that the money can’t be used for any specific purposes without action from the state Legislature.

Carpenter said he’s planning to introduce a bill to direct cash toward local road programs next week, setting it up to be debated during a floor session in May. The lottery money would ultimately be used for so-called aids for local roads, which the Wisconsin Department of Transportation pays directly to municipalities.

“Rural and urban districts are all taken care of because it’s for local roads and bridges,” Carpenter said.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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