Voters in more than 50 Wisconsin counties approved a referendum to prevent government officials from taking money from the transportation fund for use in other projects.
Vehicle registration and fuel taxes make up the bulk of the transportation fund, which the proposed amendment would safeguard from the reallocation efforts of politicians.
The referendum, which was passed by all 53 counties where it was on the election ballot, asked voters whether the state constitution should be amended to prevent transfers or lapses from the segregated transportation fund.
Current Gov. Jim Doyle transferred money from the transportation fund to the general fund in three biennial budgets totaling about $1.3 billion, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Critics have called Doyle’s dips into the transportation fund “short term fixes” to cover budget shortfalls.
Governor-elect Scott Walker has said he will not use transportation funds for any projects that are not directly transportation-related. Walker has said he supports a state constitutional amendment protecting the fund.
Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett also promised not to dip into the transportation fund to cover other projects.
Doyle does not support an amendment preventing transfers from the transportation fund to the general fund.
Multiple groups have come out in support of the proposed amendment to block use of transportation funds for other projects, citing the will of the people of Wisconsin.
“We are not surprised by these results. They reflect what we have been hearing from people in every corner of the state for a long time,” Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin, said in a statement.
Passing legislation amending the constitution to protect the fund will reflect the willingness of legislators to represent voters, Thompson said.
Other groups, such as the Finding Forward Coalition, argue transportation funds should be protected as a way to end destructive state budget practices.
The referendums are only the beginning of a long and complicated legislative process to prevent against “raids” on the transportation fund, according to the Finding Forward Coalition.
However, out of the 72 counties in Wisconsin, only 53 passed resolutions to include the amendment referendum on their ballots in Tuesday’s election. Dane County did not include the referendum on its ballot.