Governor highlights local road funding in budget

Gov. Tony Evers, second from left, greets Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke at an event Monday in Wausau to highlight new funding for local roads in the governor's budget.

Gov. Tony Evers says transportation grant funding will be distributed equitably among the state's cities and towns.

The governor in July used his line-item veto power to create a $75 million grant program [1] under which local governments will compete for transit funding beyond the funding boosts included elsewhere in the state budget. Those grants will be administered by the state Department of Transportation.

"We will get the money out to municipalities and cities as quickly as possible, (and we’ll) make good judgments," said Evers, a Democrat. "But at the end of the day, the professionals exist at the (state) Department of Transportation and we want to make sure that they are involved in making the decision."

Republicans have criticized the governor’s budget change, which reallocated funding in the state’s Local Roads Improvement Program [2] to create the competitive grant program. Joel Nilsestuen, assistant deputy secretary of transportation, said the grants will be awarded among counties, townships and municipalities in the same proportions delineated by the Legislature.

"Those grants will be submitted by local units of government, they’ll come into the department and they’ll undergo a competitive review process, including outside stakeholders," Nilsestuen said.

The process will allow the state to award funding to "projects that have a lot of merit and a lot of impact on the local economic development in that area and can really be a good use of one-time funding," he said.

In July, Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, told WPR the program was a "slush fund" [3] for the DOT and "an attack on rural and northern Wisconsin." The program has received support [1] from the Wisconsin County Highway Association, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities and the Wisconsin Towns Association.

Evers spoke Monday in Wausau, where he touted his budget’s transportation funding by filling a pothole with other state and local officials.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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