Referendum seeks to ban transportation fund raids

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
— Voters in Rock and 52 other counties in November will cast ballots to share their opinions about the use of Wisconsin's segregated transportation fund.

The Finding Forward Coalition, an advocacy group comprising transportation, business and municipal interest groups, has been pushing the ballot measure in counties across the state.

The question will ask voters if they support an amendment to the state constitution that would prevent transportation funds from being used to fill gaps in the state's operating budget.

Assistant County Administrator Phil Boutwell has told the Gazette the measure appeals to counties and municipalities because they rely on general transportation aid from the state. When the state takes money out of the transportation fund and shifts it to other programs or projects, less money is available for local road maintenance and projects for municipalities, Boutwell said.

The issue is especially relevant to Rock County, given the proposed expansion of Interstate 90/39. While federal funding is estimated to cover 40 to 50 percent of the $1 billion project, the rest would come from the state transportation fund.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that $1.2 billion has been shifted from the fund in the last decade. That money was replaced with $800 million in general obligation bonds.

Here are some questions and answers about the question from Finding Forward.

Q: What is the referendum question?

A: Should the Wisconsin Constitution be amended to prohibit any further transfers or lapses from the segregated transportation fund?

Q: What is the transportation fund?

A: The fund contains money collected from two sources: taxes that drivers pay at the gas pump and fees paid for vehicle registration. The fund has historically been segregated so that the people using the transportation system are the ones who pay for its upkeep.

Q: What would a "yes" vote mean?

A: It would mean you are in favor of adding language to the Wisconsin Constitution that would insure money collected from transportation users is spend only for transportation projects.

Q: Will a "yes" vote change the Wisconsin Constitution?

A: No. The referendum is only advisory

Q: How is the constitution changed?

A: The Legislature needs to approve a change in two consecutive sessions, and then voters need to approve the change. The earliest that could happen is 2013.

Q: Do other states do this?

A: The majority of states already have language in their constitutions that prohibits spending funds for non-transportation purposes.

Last updated: 3:08 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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