Waukesha - Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas wants county residents to speak up in an effort to prevent lawmakers' use of the state transportation fund to balance the state budget.
In an ordinance sent to the County Board on Thursday, Vrakas is seeking an advisory referendum in November that would call for an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution requiring that "all transportation funds collected or received be used solely to fund Wisconsin's transportation system and infrastructure."
Citing the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the ordinance says the state has transferred about $1.2 billion from the segregated transportation fund to the state's general fund in the past decade and replaced $800 million of it with general obligation bonds. As a result, the amount available for transportation purposes was reduced by $400 million while use of bonding to fund ongoing operations puts the state in a "precarious position," the ordinance states.
Debt service on those bonds must come from the general fund, which hurts its ability to fund other aid programs for counties, it continues. The practice also hurts the state's bond rating, the ordinance says.
The state's segregated transportation fund is financed primarily from the state's gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
"It is time to lock up these funds so that the segregated transportation fund is used for the purpose of which it is intended," Vrakas said in a press release. "We need to make sure that we are being transparent with taxpayers. When a taxpayer pays the gas tax or their vehicle registration fee, they should be confident that their dollars are going to fund transportation projects."
Both the Public Works and Executive Committees will make a recommendation on the ordinance before it's sent to the County Board on June 23.
The referendum, if approved, would coincide with the fall partisan elections for governor, U.S. Senator and representatives, state legislators and certain county officials.
A constitutional amendment must first pass in two consecutive legislative sessions and then a statewide referendum.
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