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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher November 21, 2017

Transfers from transportation fund to general fund repaid

With the final state budget of Gov. Scott Walker's second term complete (and his campaign for a third term officially under way), we're reviewing this promise.

The Transportation Fund is the largest source of funding for transportation programs (exceeding bond proceeds and federal funds). In the 2015-'16 state budget year, the fund had revenues of $1.93 billion, nearly 90 percent of which came from gas and vehicle registration fees.

The nonpartisan state Legislative Fiscal Bureau told us that in the state budget periods from 2003 through 2011, a net of $375.6 million was transferred from the Transportation Fund to the state's general fund. A report from the bureau said the transfers were made as part of an effort to balance the general fund, the state's main budget account.

Jim Doyle, a Democrat, was governor during that period. Walker has served since after his election in 2010. But it's worth noting that both Democratic and Republican lawmakers helped Doyle make the transfers to pay for schools and other programs.

Under Walker, for the state budget periods from 2011 through 2019, transfers have been made from the general fund back to the transportation fund totaling $1.28 billion -- more than repaying the $375.6 million and leaving the transportation fund with a total of $901.9 million more.

(In November 2014, on the same day Walker defeated Democrat Mary Burke to win re-election, state voters approved a referendum establishing a constitutional amendment that prevents governors and state lawmakers from using the transportation fund for other uses. Walker backed the measure.)

For Walker's pledge to repay funds that had been raided from the transportation fund, our rating is Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Email, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau director Bob Lang, Nov. 20, 2017

Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, "Transportation Finance," January 2017

Email, Gov. Scott Walker spokesman Tom Evenson, Nov. 16, 2017

Email, Wisconsin Budget Project analyst Tamarine Cornelius, Nov. 21, 2017

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