It was "disingenuous" for Gov. Scott Walker to request an alternative transportation funding proposal from Assembly Republican leaders who disagree with his proposal, Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told reporters Thursday.
Vos also pushed back on Walker's suggestion, made last week, that a "significant number" of Assembly Republicans support the transportation budget proposal unveiled by Walker's administration earlier this month.
"We have had multiple caucus discussions on this topic," Vos told reporters after a WisPolitics luncheon with Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha. "The governor has the luxury of looking in the mirror and having a discussion with himself on any topic, because he doesn’t have to get consensus. He’s the governor. My job as the speaker is to generate consensus among 62 other people, and I think we’ve done that."
Vos noted that Republican members of the Assembly have not been publicly critical of his position, adding that legislators are "quick to criticize their leadership" when they disagree.
"You have not seen that, because I think most of our members want us to have a long-term solution, and they want to follow the same strategy we’re talking about: find all the savings, wait for the audit, hear what's in the governor’s budget and then figure out what’s reasonable for us to solve the problem long-term," Vos said.
Assembly GOP leaders have been sparring with Walker since he introduced his administration's initial proposal for the 2017-19 transportation budget. GOP leaders including Vos say the plan is a political solution that doesn't do enough to address a projected $1 billion shortfall.
Walker later called on the critical lawmakers to offer their own plan, and told reporters last week he thinks the proposal has "significant" support outside the handful of Republican senators who have publicly praised it.
Vos called that suggestion "disingenuous" on Thursday, arguing that the governor has the ability to direct the Department of Transportation to assemble a proposal that meets specific criteria, while a legislative leader like Vos lacks matching resources.
Still, Vos said he's "optimistic" lawmakers will be able to work with the governor to find a solution.
Barca, on the other hand, said he is "very pessimistic" anything will be done to positively address transportation funding, cautioning voters not to believe "Republican rhetoric."
The Democrat accused Walker of kicking "a bigger can down a longer road that has potholes in it."
The primary focus in addressing the funding shortfall should be on cutting costs, Vos said, but beyond that, there may need to be a consideration of revenue-increasing measures. However, he said, that doesn't necessarily mean increasing the gas tax is the most logical solution.
Walker has warned lawmakers that he will veto any changes made to the budget that would "add to the overall burden of the taxpayers of the state."
The plan released by Walker's administration would cut funding for state highway programs while providing more money for local roads and existing highways, delay some major projects and authorize $500 million in new bonding.
Walker has stressed that the plan focuses on safety and maintenance while keeping bonding "at a reasonable level" and not raising taxes or fees.
The proposal would cut $447.4 million from state highway programs while offering an additional $69.7 million for maintenance and an additional $65 million for local roads.
Vos argued Democrats and Republicans share responsibility for the state's transportation woes.
"Gov. (Jim) Doyle raided, Gov. Walker borrowed. Both are equally problematic in the long run," he said, adding that he accepts a share of the blame for voting in favor of budgets that funded projects through bonding.
Barca argued that Democrats have offered solutions that Republicans have rejected.
"You're still blaming Gov. Doyle? Give me a break," he said.
"I think there’s enough blame to go around," Vos countered. "It’s pretty hard to reach your hand out and say let’s work together while at the same time you’re saying how much you suck."