Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he's open to boosting revenue for the state's transportation network, including through a gas tax increase such as Gov. Tony Evers proposed.
Whether such a plan materializes in the next state budget hinges on the views of his Senate colleagues, Vos, R-Rochester, said Wednesday in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal.
The comments by the top Assembly Republican suggest a possible area of compromise between at least some GOP lawmakers and the Democratic governor. Evers told the State Journal last week that a plan to "fix the damn roads" is among his bottom-line requirements for a budget compromise with GOP lawmakers.
But differences between Republicans could prove to be a stumbling block, as in the previous state budget in 2017. Then, a split between Senate and Assembly Republicans over transportation funding delayed the budget's passage by 10 weeks, ultimately blocking a major revenue increase.
Vos said there's "no option we shouldn't consider" on funding transportation, citing a gas tax increase, highway tolling or a fee on heavy trucks.
"I am open to finding a way to ensure that we have a long-term, sustainable transportation system and that, to me, means you have to have more revenue in one way or another," Vos said. "But having been through this just a year-and-a-half ago, I also know that it takes three to tango, not two.
"So I’m also going to have to have conversations first with my Senate colleagues to see how open they are to having a long-term fix for this problem, because I’m not going to be able to do it just with Gov. Evers, even if I wanted to."
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The top Senate Republican on the Legislature's budget-writing committee, Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, earlier this month signaled opposition to a gas tax hike.
"I’d rather find solutions that don’t increase the burdens on our taxpayers," Darling said.
Vos also said options he doesn't support, but should be considered, include delaying more road projects or siphoning more money for transportation from the state's general fund, which pays for schools, colleges and universities, health care, aid to cities and counties, and most other state functions.
Evers' budget proposal would increase the gas tax by 8 cents, index future increases to inflation, impose a heavy truck fee and increase vehicle title fees. It also would remove the state's minimum-markup requirement on fuel sales, which could lower the cost some motorists pay for fuel — though it's unclear by how much.
The state increasingly has been forced to borrow and delay road and bridge projects in response to an ongoing funding crunch. DOT officials have said road and bridge conditions in Wisconsin are deteriorating and will continue doing so more rapidly in the next decade without a revenue infusion.