By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican leader of the Wisconsin Senate called on Thursday for a veto override after Gov. Tony Evers’ administration announced $75 million worth of transportation grants to make more money available for public-transportation projects like Milwaukee’s streetcar.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called for the veto override shortly after Evers’ transportation secretary, Craig Thompson, announced that the new $75 million grant program would make the money available for spending on public transportation and other priorities beyond roads and bridges.
The state budget as passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature included $90 million for local road projects. Evers used a veto to take the amount down to $75 million and announced on Thursday that the money would be available through a new grant program.
Fitzgerald and other Republicans are opposed to the streetcar. Earlier this week, a group of 10 Republican senators wrote to Thompson saying the money should be used only for roads and bridges.
Instead, the grant program would let it be used for roads, bridges, public transit, bike paths and walking trails, railroads and harbors.
“The governor is taking money from local road construction to fund Milwaukee’s trolley to nowhere,” Fitzgerald said on Twitter. “Rural Dems should push back — veto override!”
Republicans haven’t enough votes on their own to override a veto unless at least three Democrats break ranks and join them.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment.
Thompson defended the grant program, saying it would allow local governments to prioritize their most important transportation needs and take on a wide range of projects.
“We expect that communities will submit the project they believe will have the greatest impact on their economic development and growth,” he said.
The state will pick up 90% of the cost, and local governments will pay the remaining 10%. The program will let towns receive about $30 million, counties about $25 million and cities and villages about $20 million.
Whereas Fitzgerald voiced opposition to the plan, his fellow Republican, Sen. Howard Marklein, praised it, saying it “nearly mirrors the Legislature’s budget plan for local roads.”
“Our local towns will not be paying for Milwaukee’s trolley, but if Milwaukee wants to apply for money to expand the trolley for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, they can do so out of their own allocation,” Marklein said.
Milwaukee will be the host of the Democratic National Convention next year.
“We’ll have to watch the city, village and county portions closely to ensure that rural cities, villages and counties do not lose out to their urban counterparts,” said Marklein, who lives in Spring Green.