In the first breakthrough on restoring cuts to the Transportation Alternatives Program, Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah) has stepped forward to offer a budget amendment to do just that.
Rep. Rohrkaste is calling for restoring $1.5 million of Governor Scott Walker’s proposed $2 million cut to the program. In an environment where the state DOT is facing a multi-hundred million dollar deficit Rep. Rohrkaste’s proposal is more than welcome. Full restoration was always a long shot and, in truth, even a 75% recovery is still an uphill battle.
The representative has also asked for the restoration of the Complete Streets law and we’re working with him on a compromise that might keep the law alive.
It’s great to have a champion for cycling in the dominant Republican caucus. Rep. Rohrkaste is an avid cyclist himself, taking up the activity after his legs started to show the wear and tear of running. Sound familiar?
A first term representative, Rohrkaste had a lengthy career in the private sector, most recently running human resources for Oshkosh Corporation before his retirement. He got into politics only because he was looking for something he could do to give back to his community beyond his volunteer activities. He comes to the legislature as a pragmatist and with a fresh, upbeat perspective.
The Bike Fed is grateful to Rep. Rohkaste for taking this on.
So, what happens next? The budget remains lodged in the Joint Finance Committee where the panel is deadlocked over the transportation budget. Governor Scott Walker sent them a budget with a 30% increase in borrowing, something the committee knows is not sustainable and not sound public policy. But the alternatives are to raise taxes or cut road projects and the committee doesn’t like either of those options either.
Governor Walker has threatened to veto any tax increase for transportation unless it is accompanied by offsetting tax cuts in other places. That’s almost impossible as the state’s general fund is also facing a deficit.
In response Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has raised the possibility of cutting all borrowing from the DOT budget. That’s probably a negotiating position, but indicates how tense things have become.
Another possibility is that taxes would be raised, the governor would veto the tax increases, and he would be overridden by the legislature. That seemed like a far-fetched scenario when it was suggested back in February because it was almost certainly require minority Democrats to vote along with Republicans. But today this seems like an option that might be on the table.
In the meantime, please consider sending a nice note to Rep. Mike Rohrkaste to thank him for his leadership on our issues.