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Assembly Republicans call for $300 million for roads against state’s $1 billion shortfall



Plan shifts raising/lowering of taxes though Ass. Speaker says “we’re not there yet.”

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin state Assembly Republicans released the framework of a plan Thursday to plug a transportation budget shortfall that would raise taxes and fees by $300 million and cut other taxes by at least that much.

The net effect would be no tax increase and hopefully more of a decrease, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said. He called the plan — which didn’t specify which taxes would be raised or lowered — a starting point for ongoing negotiations with Gov. Scott Walker and the state Senate.

Vos said “we’re not there yet” on what taxes would be lowered or raised. “We want to put all the options on the table.”

The state transportation budget faces a nearly $1 billion shortfall. The argument over how to fix that, and whether to raise taxes as part of it, is expected to be one of the biggest fights in the Legislature this year.

Walker has proposed addressing the shortfall by delaying ongoing road projects and borrowing about half a billion dollars. Vos and other Republican leaders have said they don’t want to borrow that much and would rather consider raising the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.

Walker has promised to veto any budget that raises those taxes and fees without a corresponding decrease. His spokesman, Tom Evenson, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on the Assembly Republicans’ plan. A spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Assembly Republicans said in a news release that they were united behind the framework. It comes the day after new projections showed the state would be collecting about $454 million more in tax revenue by the middle of 2019 than previously expected.

“We want to return tax dollars to hardworking families and fix the roads they depend on,” said Rep. John Nygren, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget committee.

The more positive budget outlook makes it easier for Walker to deliver on a variety of promises, including raising money for K-12 schools, cutting University of Wisconsin tuition and paying for roads without raising taxes.

The good budget news also increases the pressure from special interests who are lobbying Walker and lawmakers for the money. Walker is expected to release his budget proposal on Feb. 8.

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