- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 6, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker told Republican state senators on Tuesday he wants to work with them to find a way to pay for delayed road construction projects that are held up because lawmakers haven’t been willing to borrow more money to pay for them.

Walker urged the lawmakers to consider borrowing up to $350 million, as allowed in the budget for road projects, saying it’s “incredibly important” for the work to get done. The state Department of Transportation announced delays last week on five major projects over the next two years, and said work on current projects would continue but at a slower pace.

“We’re willing to work with you,” Walker told senators during a caucus meeting at the Capitol. “We think there’s some ways we can squeeze some savings. … I would be hopeful that some point in the future at least a portion of that could be freed up.”

The affected projects are the Interstate 39-90 lane expansion from the Illinois state line to Madison; an expansion and reconstruction of Highway 10/441 in the Fox Valley; expanding and reconstructing the Highway 151/Verona Road interchange in Madison; reconstructing 11 miles of Highway 15 near New London in Outagamie County; and completing work on Highway 23 between Fond du Lac and Sheboygan.

Walker originally proposed borrowing $1.3 billion over two years for transportation projects, but Republicans who control the Legislature said that was too much. Instead, they agreed to borrow $500 million initially and then make $350 million more available to be released later.

Walker and the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee could release that money but they have yet to do so. Some Republicans continue to object to borrowing more money to pay for roads, leading to the stalemate.

“I get the concern, although I think it’s a pretty good time to look at it,” Walker told the Republican senators, saying he was willing to consider alternatives.

Walker also voiced his support for replacing the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board with a bipartisan panel that oversees elections, banning the sale of aborted fetal tissue and overhauling the state’s 110-year-old civil service system making it easier to hire and fire state workers.

Walker made a similar visit with Assembly Republicans two weeks ago, as he increases his presence in the state after dropping out of the GOP presidential race on Sept. 21.


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

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