The coronavirus pandemic cost Wisconsin’s transportation fund nearly $100 million through late June, a blow that’s worse than agency officials had initially thought.
In a memo from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released Tuesday, state officials estimate that Wisconsin’s transportation fund brought in $97.3 million less than expected, largely because of a drop in gas-tax revenues and fees collected from title and vehicle registrations this spring.
The memo offers the first look at the state’s transportation fund since the pandemic emerged in March, and shows revenue collections fared worse than the Wisconsin Department of Transportation had predicted.
WisDOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson said in June he expected the agency would lose about $80 million in revenue from the pandemic. With much of the state under Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer-at-home order, vehicle-miles-traveled dropped greatly in the early weeks of the pandemic, depriving the state of gas tax revenue.
The memo released Tuesday shows that although revenues were 6.2% higher in the fiscal year that ended on June 30 than in the previous year, the transportation fund collected 4.9% less than officials had expected. Lawmakers during the last biennial budget raised a variety of registration fees to pay for an increase in road spending.
The drop in revenue could lead to tough decisions in the months to come and endanger a biennial budget that puts $400 million more into road work. Lower-than-expected collections could force the Legislature to decide if it should trim projects next year, borrow more to pay for planned road projects, or increase fees to make up the difference.
Thompson, in June, said he had carried out about $100 million in internal cuts to offset the expected drop in revenue from the coronavirus. At the time, the department had also continued bidding and administering large road projects in hopes of being able to collect federal highway redistribution dollars. Under that process, federal officials take road money away from states that were originally allocated it but didn’t use it and redistribute it to states that did use their money.Follow @natebeck9