A constitutional amendment to protect the state’s transportation fund got its first push in this legislative session Tuesday, passing unanimously through the Assembly’s Committee on Transportation.
The amendment would forbid the state from taking money from the transportation fund and putting it elsewhere, which past legislatures have done. The transportation committee voted 15-0 in favor of the amendment, making it available for Assembly leaders to schedule it for a vote.
Two consecutive legislative sessions need to approve an amendment so voters can later approve it in a referendum. The past session passed it, with all Republicans and most Democrats voting in favor.
The Senate’s committee that deals with transportation will consider the amendment Feb. 7, according to Tim Fiocchi, an aide to the committee’s chair.
The Assembly committee’s chairman, Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, said many of the state’s voters have supported such an amendment. Out of the state’s 72 counties, 54 of them supported the amendment in an advisory referendum.
“The public seems to be making one thing clear: When we levy taxes for a specific purpose, the money people pay in should fund exactly what we told them it was going to fund,” Ripp said.
Ripp said the transportation fund takes up much of the state’s segregated funds, and it has seen a total of $1.3 billion taken for other uses.
Keeping all funds in the transportation fund would help keep the state’s infrastructure strong, he said.
“The longer we allow for this money to be moved from one account to another, the harder it will be to maintain the impressive transportation system we have here in Wisconsin,” Ripp said.
A commission the last Legislature established came out with its recommendations last week, and among them was passing the constitutional amendment.
That commission also recommended increasing revenues via a gas tax increase and a new mileage-based driver fee in order to fund infrastructure investments.
Transportation Development Association Executive Director Craig Thompson, a member of that commission, pushed for the amendment at Tuesday’s public hearing, calling it the “cornerstone issue” for TDA.
“Until we amend the constitution to provide this sort of certainty, we can’t have the productive conversation that I believe we need to have about funding our transportation system moving forward,” Thompson said.