MADISON - Republican lawmakers stood dozens of times to cheer during Gov. Walker's State of the State speech Tuesday afternoon.
But many Republicans stayed in their chairs and some kept fairly quiet when Walker talked about how to close a $1 billion gap in transportation funding.
Walker doubled down on his promise not to raise the gas tax or vehicle registration fees. Instead, he wants to delay some major road projects, borrow more money, and focus on maintenance and safety.
House Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) told Newswatch 12 in a one-on-one interview that he respects Walker's pledge, but adds that the governor's ideas don't get to the heart of what needs to be done.
"Under Gov. Walker's plan, it's going to be 70 years before the interstates are rebuilt," Vos said. "Well, they've been around for 70 years. I don't think they're going to last another 70."
Vos says he too made a pledge not to raise taxes, but he said his pledge falls under not raising income or sales taxes. Vos says gas taxes and registration fees are user fees that, unlike general taxes, would go directly to road repairs.
Vos is open to looking at all possible options, including toll roads. But he wants to wait for an audit of the Department of Transportation to come in first, which is expected in the next month or so.
"When the only option is putting it on the credit card, not fixing it, or paying for what we use, I guess the conservative answer for me is to pay for what we use after finding every possible savings," Vos said.
During the State of the State speech, Walker lauded spending about $18 billion on transportation funding over his six years in office. The governor also pledged to provide millions of dollars in funding for counties and towns to make their own repairs.
Vos says all of that money divided between nearly 2,000 towns equals just 53 feet of road repairs for each community.
"Fifty-three feet isn't going very far," Vos said. "That's, unfortunately, going to come at the expense of state roads, so why would you not fix the state roads to fix 53 feet of roads in a town and call that a victory?"
The speaker told Newswatch 12 that he respects Walker, but he called this issue a "blind spot" for the governor. We should learn more about Walker's transportation plans during his budget address in February.
RHINELANDER - Oneida County needs more foster care homes. Right now, there are nine licensed foster homes in the area, most of which are full according to the county's social services department.
Foster Care Coordinator Rachel Nelson says that in Oneida County there are 24 children currently living in foster homes. The department participated in a statewide foster care recruitment project last fall, and discovered just how great the need is.
RHINELANDER - A snow storm caught Hanson's Garden Village in Rhinelander off guard last weekend and collapsed a greenhouse. Now that spring weather is here, Hanson's is ready to move forward by making some adjustments. "We got by for 25 years doing what we were doing," said Hanson's Garden Village Co-owner Brent Hanson. Last weekend's spring snow storm set back Hanson's. "We thought we were ahead of schedule having that greenhouse nice and filled," said Hanson's Manager Beth Hanson.
"One bad storm and there you go. Things happen," said Brent. The storm collapsed a greenhouse holding thousands of plants. "For years we've gotten by with these lighter cheaper green houses," said Brent. "We'll be down a greenhouse for a little bit here," said Beth. Now Hanson's will only use sturdier and solid greenhouses so that collapses don't become a pattern.
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