Ellis: Lawmakers can halt fund transfers
By Pete Bach
State lawmakers can block further raiding of the highway trust fund even as a process begins to seek a Constitutional amendment in four years.
So says state Sen. Michael Ellis, R-Neenah, on the heels of the affirmative outcome of a Nov. 2 advisory referendum to prohibit use of state transportation fund monies for anything but road building and maintenance needs.
The question, which was on the ballot in 53 of the state's 72 counties, was: "Should the Wisconsin Constitution be amended to prohibit any further transfers or lapses from the segregated transportation fund?"
Ellis, president-elect of the state Senate, said lawmakers could have blocked the fund diversions. About $1.38 billion has been diverted from the transportation fund over the past eight years and applied to other uses to balance the general fund.
"All they've got to do is simply not do it," Ellis said. "Immediately next session the legislature ought to say to their constituents the highway fund ought to be off limits. And that would stop the bleeding."
The advisory referendum passed handily, with about seven of every 10 voters filing a "yes" nod, according to an informal tally by the Transportation Development Association, a Madison group.
Affirmative referendum margins ranged from a low of 61.5 percent in Trempealeau County to 85.1 percent in Dodge County.
Outcomes in four area counties by vote total and percentage are:
Lack of state funding is one reason for the delay in upgrading a segment of Lynndale Drive (Outagamie County A) from two lanes to four lanes between Wisconsin and Northland avenues in Grand Chute, said Outagamie Highway Commissioner Al Geurts.
Winnebago County Highway Commissioner John Haese said funding lapses also hinder road maintenance.
"It's (impact) is seen in maintenance activities like crack sealing, chip sealing, maybe some asphalt overlays, shoulder repairs," he said. "If not for (the diversion of money) you would see a lot more mowing done on the state highway as well as the county system."
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