Walker open to tolling interstates, with conditions

Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday signaled he's open to charging tolls on Wisconsin's Interstates, but with a key condition: linking it to a reduction in the state's 30.9-cent-per-gallon gas tax.

Governor Scott Walker held a news conference right in front of the "Welcome to Wisconsin" sign on I-39/90 northbound Tuesday morning to issue a warning to legislators about delaying a vote on the state transportation budget, saying it could lead to major delays of active construction projects like this one.

According to DOC, there were about 3,000 inmates serving parole-eligible sentences at the end of past year.

Wednesday's meeting is the only one scheduled this week for the 16-member budget committee, sandwiched between Memorial Day weekend and the state Democratic Party convention that begins Friday.

- DISTRICT ATTORNEY, PUBLIC DEFENDER PAY: District attorneys and public defenders, who have complained about the ability to recruit and retain attorneys based on their current salaries, would see pay increases under Walker's budget.

Other options suggested include raising the gas tax, registration fees, or even adding toll roads.

"We think it's a good compromise", said Republican committee co-chair Sen.

The state property tax generates about $180 million over two years to protect and preserve Wisconsin's forests.

That amounts to about $4,100 a year. Instead, Walker is calling for replacing the property tax funding with money from the state's main account that primarily comes from sales and income taxes. It's not yet clear whether the state legislature's Republican majority will support Walker's proposal, though it has support from some legislators in leadership positions.

Walker threatened to take the unprecedented step of vetoing the entire budget if property taxes go up on homeowners.

But Walker said Tuesday that a budget split would delay work on some highway projects because it likely would mean there would be no new transportation budget in place by July 1.

Walker also signaled he is open to proposals to toll USA interstates in Wisconsin - a move favored by Republicans who control the state Assembly - but only if tied to a reduction in the state's fuel tax.

The $1.75 billion I-39-90 project involves widening and rebuilding the interstate from the IL state line to the Madison area. Its changes are important because the Senate and Assembly are unlikely to make major breaks with what the committee recommends.

A popular outdoors magazine published by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that's on the chopping block could get saved by the Legislature's budget-writing committee.

Lovers of the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine - which had 84,000 subscribers as of December - have been urging lawmakers to keep the print edition alive. The state now taxes property owners 16.97 cents for each $1,000 of a property's value.

Vanessa Coleman

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