Finance

Finance committee gives OK to most of state’s plan for extra federal highway money

A $283 million boost in federal highway money that Wisconsin is getting from Washington got approval from the Legislature’s budget committee Tuesday, but only after the Republican majority rewrote some of the spending plan for the new funds.

The discussion of the measure largely revolved around partisan jabs over credit for the plan and the road repairs that it will pay for. 

The money comes to the state as a result of the federal bipartisan infrastructure law enacted in late 2021 and the 2022 federal appropriations bill that followed this March.

The new money will increase Wisconsin’s federal highway aid by 35% over the $803.4 million that was anticipated in the 2021-23 state budget enacted in July 2021, giving the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee the authority to review the administration’s plan for the additional money and enact an alternative.

Tuesday, the committee rejected along party lines a proposal from the four Democratic lawmakers on the panel to accept the state Department of Transportation’s plan as written. Members then voted 14-1 to accept revisions drawn up by the finance committee’s co-chairs. 

The revisions included one specifying that $4.3 million in federally directed funds to reduce congestion and pollution could only be used for highway right-of-way improvement projects. Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) objected to the change because it would prevent that money from being used for bicycle, pedestrian or trail facilities and cast the only vote against the GOP plan. 

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