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Evers' pothole patrol renews debate over roadwork in state budget

Gov. Tony Evers during his Pothole Patrol Tour May 26, 2023. (WLUK/Mike Gard)
Gov. Tony Evers during his Pothole Patrol Tour May 26, 2023. (WLUK/Mike Gard)
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APPLETON (WLUK) -- As part of Gov. Tony Evers' proposed investment in fixing the roads, he's been going on what he's calling the Pothole Patrol Tour as part of his emphasis on the need for improved roads across the state of Wisconsin.

The idea has overwhelming support in Madison.

"Our entire society relies on infrastructure -- whether it's driving, whether it's flying," Evers said. "It's not just for looks; it's for safety."

"That's certainly something that I've focused on my time in the legislature is spreading those road dollars as far as we can in terms of actually getting things fixed up, roads constructed," said State Rep. André Jacque, R-1st District.

The Democrat's initial proposed budget asked for nearly $380 million of the state's surplus to be used for improving roads.

But last month when the state joint finance committee removed over 500 items from that budget, among them was some of that funding for roads.

"At the end of the day, some of these things might come back for further discussion," Evers said. "We'll continue to -- and I'm sure the legislators here too are interested in making sure there's adequate resources for our municipalities."

But some lawmakers said final kinks still need to be worked out.

"Some of the things the governor's put into the budget as well -- like reinstituting prevailing wage, which would have actually significantly decreased the amount of road projects that we would've been able to get completed," Jacque said.

Evers also discussed road related budget initiatives that were removed, like increased penalties for first time DUI offenders.

"I'm kind of disappointed we're not talking about that now in the legislature, but it's my hope that the interlocking piece will be considered and drivers licenses for undocumented folks," Evers said. "The speaker made it very clear that he doesn't want to do that. "

Jacque is a supporter of the DUI change, but he believes the budget wasn't the appropriate setting to do so.

"Largely what got stripped out in the finance process so far have been the non-fiscal policy items," Jacque said. "I do think that there's opportunities to obviously address the drunk driving issue in particular."

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The state's budget surplus is currently estimated to be nearly $7 billion. That's the largest budget surplus in state history.

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