They’ve said it before, and they’re saying it again — the Columbia County Board of Supervisors doesn’t want to allow the state Legislature to raid the transportation fund.
The County Board on Wednesday unanimously adopted a resolution calling on lawmakers to approve, in the coming legislative session, an amendment to the state constitution to “protect the transportation fund.”
To amend the constitution, the Legislature must approve a proposed amendment in two consecutive sessions before it can be placed on the ballot for voter approval.
The transportation amendment got legislative endorsement in the previous session, and one more approval would put it on the ballot.
The transportation fund is a segregated fund composed mostly of money collected from gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees.
It is intended to be used for transportation purposes — including, but not limited to, building and repairing roads — but in recent years, lawmakers have borrowed from the fund to make up for shortfalls in the general fund.
Supervisor Adam Field, who works in the Madison office of state Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, said both Republican and Democratic administrations have raided the transportation fund in the past, resulting in less money being available for state and local transportation needs.
The County Board passed a similar resolution in July 2010, calling for the matter to be put on the ballot in Columbia County for the following November as a nonbinding referendum.
The referendum results from Nov. 2, 2010, were 12,300 yes and 6,130 no, for a 66 percent approval for the proposed amendment.
Field said a constitutional amendment is necessary if the people of Wisconsin want to preclude raiding the transportation fund. Passing a law won’t do the job, Field said, because each state budget is a law unto itself, and the budget could supersede any other laws governing the fund’s use – though it couldn’t supersede the constitution.
Supervisor Kevin Kessler said that, while he supports the amendment, there are other segregated funds besides the transportation fund that also are raided.