- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker, who steadfastly opposes raising taxes or fees to pay for roads, would sign a state budget that includes no borrowing for highways and other transportation needs in Wisconsin, resulting in significant delays to ongoing and planned projects, his spokeswoman said Friday.

While that is not his preferred option, Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said if the Legislature decides to remove $1.3 billion in borrowing the governor proposed, Walker would sign it.

That’s a “pretty stark concept,” said Rep. John Nygren, co-chairman of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos first publicly voiced the possibility of doing away with the borrowing on Wednesday, saying that would be an option since Walker refuses to consider raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees. Vos offered the idea to Walker in a private meeting that day, which was also attended by Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald.

“When Speaker Vos floated the idea of the Legislature removing all bonding for transportation from the state budget, it was communicated that this would have a devastating impact on the transportation fund and transportation projects across the state as a ripple effect,” Patrick said in an email.

Without the $1.3 billion, every road project would likely be affected: from megaprojects like the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee, the Interstate 39/90 expansion from Madison south to Illinois, the I-94 expansion from Milwaukee south to Illinois, as well as other state highway work, bridge repairs and freight rail maintenance, according to information provided by Walker’s office.

Nygren, a Republican from Marinette and co-chairman of the Joint Finance Committee, said he doesn’t want to delay roads projects because that will only put greater pressure on lawmakers in two years to figure out a way to deal with the pent-up demand.

Nygren and other Republicans have talked about reducing the level of borrowing by between $300 million and $800 million.

Republican lawmakers and Walker are at an impasse, and the budget remains stalled over it. Nygren described negotiations on transportation funding as “a little bit of a stare off at this time.”

Another outstanding issue is whether to repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law - which sets salaries for workers on public works jobs - or just scale it back. And a financing deal to pay for a new Milwaukee Bucks arena reached with Walker, Milwaukee officials, Republican legislative leaders and team owners was just released Thursday.

Both the prevailing wage and arena issue could be decided outside of the budget, but transportation funding must be included in the two-year spending plan.

Regarding the Bucks deal, Nygren and other Republicans have said they want to give the public, and lawmakers who must approve it, time to understand it before rushing to a vote.

“There’s no real big sense of urgency to get this to Joint Finance,” Nygren said.

The Joint Finance Committee originally planned to complete its work last Friday, but the Republican-controlled panel did not meet this week and it has no meetings scheduled for next week.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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