MacIver Institute

Subscribe to MacIver Institute feed
Updated: 8 hours 44 min ago

State Rep. Sanfelippo Has a List of Questions About State Transportation Spending

Thu, 12/15/2016 - 14:29

December 15, 2016

By Chris Rochester
MacIver Institute Communications Director

A member of the Assembly's transportation committee wants the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to answer for how it spends money before giving the go-ahead on any increase in revenue for the department.

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) expressed his concerns on how the DOT is spending its money in an interview with WISN host Jay Weber Thursday morning.

"There are just a lot of areas where they are spending money, more than what they need to be spending building these projects, putting on all the bells and whistles as if money is no object," Sanfelippo told Weber. "Yet they're coming to the legislature and crying poor and telling us we're going to have to delay all these projects because we don't have enough funds."

"We're getting a confused message - which is it?" Sanfelippo asked, repeating his comment to DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb at a Committee on Transportation hearing last week where he said the committee has been hearing a "tale of two departments."

Sanfelippo cited several examples of wasteful spending by the DOT. One example is the department's expenditure of $28 million on just two projects to use stainless steel rebar instead of standard epoxy coated iron rebar for bridge decks. Gottlieb at the hearing defended the spending, saying the stainless steel rebar, used in the Zoo Interchange and the Hoan Bridge projects in Milwaukee, is intended to ensure the road decks last as long as the rest of the bridge structure.

While traditional rebar typically lasts as long as the concrete structure, the more expensive rebar will actually outlast the entire 75-year lifespan of the bridges, Sanfelippo said. "The cost-benefit isn't there," he told Weber.

Sanfelippo also questioned the DOT's decision to install a new, more expensive style of light poles at traffic intersections. The department has installed 1,100 of the new style of traffic light systems since 2009, costing a total of $55 million more than the traditional "trombone" style traffic signal that had been in use before.

The DOT claims the new style is safer, but Sanfelippo said he hasn't seen any studies from the department backing up the claim, despite having asked for specific studies several times. "They're just making numbers up," he told Weber.

"We'd all like to spend and get the very best of everything, but we have to live within our means," he said.

He also pointed out the state is also providing freeway service teams where the state spends $5 million a year to help motorists fix flat tires or bring gasoline, services that people can sign up for privately through programs like AAA or private insurance.

"These aren't nickel and dime initiatives, they add up to a lot of money," Sanfelippo said, adding they're not just one-off expenses but savings that could be realized every year. He said his office has assembled two binders full of information about DOT's spending adding up to about $100 million.

The MacIver Institute has previously reported on other examples of wasteful spending. In one case, the DOT built a $3.6 million foot bridge two blocks from an existing bridge with sidewalks. Another report highlighted a lightly-used four-lane bypass near Baraboo.

In its last budget, the DOT added 180 engineer positions at a $10-12 million annual cost. While the department assured legislators the engineers would have plenty of work, Sanfelippo questioned if that would hold true if proposed project delays are passed.


He also questioned the expenses run up on special spending cards the DOT issues some of its employees. From 400-500 employees in the DOT have these purchasing cards that were first issued in the 1990s and were originally intended for small purchases like office supplies. However, the department spent more than $10 million in the last budget cycle on purchases made on these cards; some people are spending from $300-500 thousand per year.


Sanfelippo said he's not alleging misuse or abuse, but called on the department to explain how it's monitoring such spending to prevent waste and abuse. "These are all conversations that I think we need to have before we start talking about 'are we raising revenue, and if so, how much'," he said.

He also questioned the department's travel expenses for staff junkets to conferences around the world, which Gottlieb defended at the transportation hearing as a good business practice.


Sanfelippo said the savings he's found add up to real money for an agency some claim is desperate for more revenue. Based on an exchange with Gottlieb at last week's hearing and previous conversations with the DOT, Sanfelippo estimated the potential savings he's found so far could pay for up to 70 new road construction jobs.

He also questioned the process the department uses to get projects from the drawing board to being completed.

The state currently uses a design-bid-build process for construction projects. "That is the most expensive and lengthy way to build roads," Sanfelippo told Weber. Many states are going to a system of design-build construction, where the general contractor takes over a project from the design phase right through construction, he said. Sanfelippo believes such a change could save 10-30 percent on construction costs and reduce project times.

Another alternative to consider is a public-private partnership, in which the private market provides funding for a transportation project. Sanfelippo believes federal transportation dollars come with red tape and strings attached that drive up the cost of a project. He cited Indiana as an example of the potential for savings. "We could be saving hundreds of millions of dollars on construction if we just revamped the way we do our process."


"There's so much resistance from the bureaucracy in Madison," he said.

While the legislature awaits a Legislative Audit Bureau analysis of DOT spending, Sanfelippo said lawmakers should "take that a step farther" and look at other spending like the bidding process to find more savings.

While he criticizes DOT spending, Sanfelippo said he's not unilaterally opposed to increased revenue, but wants answers to his questions about suspect spending first.

"In the end, we need a great transportation network to move our goods and services around the state...but by God, we have got to make sure that the money they're getting, they're using wisely."

"I can't look at anyone squarely in the eye right now and tell them, yes, the DOT is operating properly. I just don't have that faith in them right now."

Listen to Rep. Sanfelippo's full interview with Weber here.

Report: Wisconsin Ranks 32nd in Economic Freedom; New York Still the Least-Free; New Hampshire Leads Nation

Thu, 12/15/2016 - 05:00

December 15, 2016

TORONTO--New Hampshire has the highest level of economic freedom among all U.S. states for the second year in a row, while Wisconsin is tied for 32nd place, finds a new report released Tuesday by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The Live Free or Die state scored 8.3 out of 10 in this year's report, which measures government spending, taxation and labor market restrictions using data from 2014, the most recent year of available data.

Among the four largest states, Florida was 2nd and Texas tied for 3rd. For the second year in a row New York was 50th and California was 49th.

"Americans have been voting with their feet against the 'big government' approach of New York and California. Florida and Texas have experienced more than two-and-a-half times faster population growth in recent years, and they're among the freest states in the country," said Dean Stansel, economics professor at Southern Methodist University and co-author of this year's Economic Freedom of North America 2016.

Rounding out the top five are South Dakota (tied for 3rd) and Tennessee. Alaska, New Mexico and Hawaii rounded out the bottom five least free states. North Carolina vaulted up the rankings from 25th to 13th after a large income tax cut.

The report also has an all-government ranking system, which adds federal government policy and includes the 50 U.S. states, 32 Mexican states and 10 Canadian provinces.

Since 2004, the average score for U.S. states has fallen from 8.26 to 7.70 out of 10 in 2014, driven largely by changes at the federal level.

In the most-free states, the average per capita income in 2014 was 4.7 per cent above the national average compared to roughly 3.3 per cent below the national average in the least-free states.

"The link between economic freedom and prosperity is clear--people who live in states that support low taxation, limited government and flexible labor markets have higher living standards and greater economic opportunity," said Fred McMahon, the Dr. Michael A. Walker Research Chair in Economic Freedom at the Fraser Institute and report co-author.

The Economic Freedom of North America report, also co-authored by José Torra, is an offshoot of the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of the World index, the result of more than a quarter century of work by more than 60 scholars including three Nobel laureates.

Detailed tables for each country and subnational jurisdiction can be found at www.fraserinstitute.org.

Read the full report here.

Creativity Needed to Pave Way for Transportation Solution

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 08:58

December 14, 2016

By Chris Rochester
MacIver Institute Communications Director

The following column originally appeared in the La Crosse Tribune:

Politicians and special interests have lined up to raise Wisconsin's gas tax, a contentious issue that the recent election did not resolve. But the simplistic solution of a gas tax hike overlooks the complexity of the transportation funding issue and the buffet of alternative options available to legislators who are willing to be creative.

While Wisconsin's "other season," construction season, is quickly coming to an end, you still can't drive more than a few miles in the state without finding a sea of orange construction barrels. There's also the endless struggle over the contentious north-south corridor, which could put a four-lane highway through the La Crosse River Marsh.

Let's acknowledge that there's plenty of work to do as our region grows and demands on our infrastructure increase. Let's also acknowledge that a gas tax won't solve the problem. A breathtaking 28-cent-per-gallon hike -- a 91 percent increase -- would be needed to fully fund all of Wisconsin's transportation priorities, according to a recent memo by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

By contrast, the state Department of Transportation's 2017-2019 budget proposal does not raise the gas tax or registration fees at all. Instead, it redirects more funding to local governments, who will get the largest funding boost from the state that they've seen in 15 years. This proposal will help local governments carry out needed maintenance.

The DOT proposal would increase general transportation aid by $65 million, an increase of 8 percent for counties and 4.7 percent for municipalities over the last budget. That's $14 million more for local roads and $5 million more for local bridges -- the largest increase since 1998. It also boosts the highway maintenance fund to $1.7 billion, the largest that fund has ever been.

This shift to local projects is welcome news, but it should be noted that the state has never funded the lion's share of local road maintenance. This puts La Crosse County in a bind because the county has been putting road repairs "on the credit card," as Rep. Steve Doyle likes to quip when criticizing transportation bonding by the state. The county takes in plenty of tax revenue, but it has chosen not to invest the money in roads.

Though he's wrong on his tax-first position, Doyle is right about something: we still need a long-term solution to funding transportation into the future.

There are many options at legislators' disposal. While the prevailing wage law was repealed for local projects, a full repeal of the outdated law that inflates the cost of projects would save taxpayers untold millions on state-funded projects. West Virginia saved $22 million in just three months after eliminating its prevailing wage law.

Lawmakers could also shore up the transportation fund by putting sales taxes paid on cars and other transportation-related purchases directly into the transportation fund. Thankfully, the fund is now protected from being used for general purpose spending after Gov. Jim Doyle raided it to the tune of $1.4 billion to plug holes in his final budget.

Lawmakers could also repeal the state's antiquated Unfair Sales Act, also called the minimum markup law, which mandates a 9.18 percent markup on the prices we all pay at the pump. While increasing the gas tax should be a last resort, repealing the minimum markup law and adding a smaller gas tax increase would be a net decrease in the price at the pump and a win for cash-strapped Wisconsinites.

In addition, lawmakers should consider a surcharge for electric and hybrid cars, which contribute significantly less toward road maintenance since they don't use as much gasoline.

Lawmakers must also be willing to wring every bit of savings out of the DOT, including cutting down on unnecessary projects like four-lane bypasses in the middle of nowhere, roundabouts where they don't improve safety, lavish decorations on overpasses and bridges, and rooting out other wasteful spending.

Also, as if the DOT is flush with cash, the department keeps dangling $140 million over La Crosse for a new north-south corridor. Though voters overwhelmingly rejected a marsh road 18 years ago, the department seems determined to spend the money anyway.

There's no special "north-south corridor" account in the DOT budget -- the money isn't really there. The fact that the department persists despite its budget challenges speaks volumes about its spending priorities.

A historically large Republican caucus will vote next year on a transportation package. Let's hope the newly elected Legislature can put aside old arguments and muster the creativity to find the right solution for their constituents, not just the easiest solution.

Read the original column here.

State Insurance Board Needs More Time to Decide on Self-Funded Insurance Switch

Wed, 12/14/2016 - 05:00

MacIver News Service | December 13, 2016

[Madison, Wis...] Wisconsin's Group Insurance Board decided to put off a decision about switching state employees to a self-funded health insurance system at a Tuesday meeting, citing the need to gather more information before making a final decision.

"We have not taken any action at all today," said GIB chairman Mike Farrell after the board met in closed session for four hours on Tuesday to discuss the decision.

"As you know there is much complexity and volumes of information that relate to our consideration, and of course we are not taking these decisions lightly," Farrell said.

The board will re-convene some time in January.


The decision to delay came a day after the co-chairs of the state's Joint Committee on Finance sent a letter to Farrell and the GIB expressing their concerns over changing the state to a self-insurance model. "As we move into the 2017-19 state budget, we would appreciate continued dialogue. It is for this reason that we hope the GIB will take a deliberate approach, including more time if necessary," wrote Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. John Nygren in the letter.

At Tuesday's meeting, GIB members reviewed several options for what form a self-insured system would take, some of which split the state into administrative regions where health insurers would compete. Under the self-funded model, the state would hire an administrator to run the program but would collect premiums and pay for claims directly. Currently, the state works with a network of 17 private health insurance plans throughout the state.

Darling and Nygren's letter expressed concerns that a self-funded system would regionalize the state's health insurance market and "would create artificial government boundaries," disrupting the existing marketplace.

The Joint Committee on Finance has the final say in whether the state would switch to a self-funded system.

The state has been exploring the self-insurance idea for several years. A 2015 report by Segal Consulting showed Wisconsin could save $42 million a year under a self-funded model.


The GIB went further earlier this year, issuing a series of requests for proposals from potential administrators of a self-funded system, which they received and reviewed over the course of the summer and fall.

Read more about the decision at the Department of Employee Trust Funds website here.

A Look Back to the Special Needs Scholarship Debate

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 13:29

MacIver News Service | December 13, 2016

[Madison, Wis...] The Department of Public Instruction will hold a hearing on the Special Needs Scholarship Program, which began in the 2016-17 school year. Check out this video from 2014 to listen to a few moms who have children with special needs talking passionately about their support of the proposed program.

As Presidential Recount Comes to a Close, Trump Gains 131 Votes

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 12:01

MacIver News Service | December 13, 2016

[Madison, Wi...] The Wisconsin Elections Commission formally certified recount results on Monday, bringing the Wisconsin presidential recount to a close. The Trump/Pence ticket gained 131 additional votes, widening the margin slightly to 22,748 votes more than the Clinton/Kaine ticket. Read more about the results here and take a look at coverage on social media below.

Wisconsin Election Commission chairman Mark Thomsen said the recount found no evidence of hacked voting machines or computers in this state.

— Jason Stein (@jasonmdstein) December 12, 2016

The final results of the Wisconsin presidential election changed by just .06% as a result of the #WIRecount #WKOW

— Greg Neumann (@gneumann_wkow) December 12, 2016

.@HillaryClinton +172, @realDonaldTrump no change. #WIRecount #news3 https://t.co/iRXho6dXm5

— Jessica Arp (@news3jessica) December 11, 2016

This is largest statewide change I've seen in one ward so far in the #WIRecount. Most errors involve handful of votes and often cancel out. https://t.co/0dTJq8sQTa

— Jason Stein (@jasonmdstein) December 6, 2016

Insurance Board to Vote on Self-Insurance Switch

Tue, 12/13/2016 - 05:00

December 13, 2016

By Chris Rochester
MacIver Institute Communications Director

Today, Wisconsin's Group Insurance Board is set to decide on whether to switch the health insurance system for state employees from a network of private insurers to a self-funded model that's used by most large employers. It's a big decision, but making the switch is hardly a perilous journey into unknown waters, as some opponents have claimed.

The change has a lot of moving parts, but the concept is relatively simple. With a self-funded insurance system, also called self-insurance, the state will collect health insurance premiums from state employees and pay claims itself. This would replace the current system where the state farms out its insurance business to 17 different health insurance plans around the state.

The state's Group Insurance Board has been debating the topic for years. After two separate analyses by outside consultants, the GIB asked for proposals earlier this summer from potential administrators - firms that would help the state administer its self-insurance system.

Those proposals have been received, and the GIB reviewed them in a closed-door session on November 30. They board will make its decision on Tuesday.

Self-insurance is the rule, not the exception, among most large employers. Ninety percent of all large employers - companies that employ 5,000 or more people - use the self-insured model because it makes good business sense and gives them greater flexibility in how they administer health insurance for their workforce.

State governments are, of course, also large employers. As of 2010, 46 states used self-insurance in some way. At least 20 states self-fund all of their state employee health plans, including Minnesota, which moved to fully self-funded insurance in 2002.

The state of Wisconsin is a very large employer, and it already uses the self-funded insurance model in certain areas. Wisconsin currently self-insures its "Standard" health insurance plan, its "Pharmacy Plan", and in 2016 it began to self-insure its dental plan.

Opponents of the self-insurance idea - generally consisting of the hospitals and HMOs that gain business from the status quo - argue that if the state self-insures, it could harm "mom and pop" insurance plans and reduce competition in Wisconsin's health insurance market, possibly driving up costs. It's too big a risk to the state's insurance market, the argument goes.

But since the state already partially self-insures, these arguments are hard to back up.

Further, the "mom and pop insurance shop" trope gets old when it's not really true. These are large companies with diverse business portfolios and broad risk pools run by expert health insurance professionals. None rely more than 30 percent on business from state employees. Besides that, it's not the job of the state government or any large employer to protect the interests of entrenched businesses.

It is the business of state government to run efficiently and spend taxpayer dollars wisely. Changing to a self-funded insurance model will allow the state to more directly tackle cost drivers like chronic illnesses and be more creative in delivering care to all employees. 

Under a self-funded system, the state would not have to negotiate with a litany of insurance companies in order to make changes designed to improve the health of those covered. It would be much easier for the state to offer an innovative wellness program or put health clinics on-site where employees work, just two examples among dozens of innovative care options that would be possible and relatively easy to implement to control longer term costs.

Another major reason to switch to self-insurance are millions of dollars in new taxes that will be imposed on insurance companies under Obamacare.

It has to be acknowledged that even the most savvy political wonks didn't foresee a federal government completely controlled by Republicans following the 2016 elections. Donald Trump's presidential victory, along with Paul Ryan's re-election as Speaker of the House and the GOP retaining its hold on the U.S. Senate practically ensures that major changes will come to what we now call Obamacare.

That means there is uncertainty over those massive Obamacare taxes. Self-insuring would spare Wisconsin from massive tax increases under Obamacare such as the provider tax (self-funded insurance plans are exempt) and the delayed "Cadillac Tax," a 40 percent excise tax applied to those plans that provide health insurance benefits over $10,000 in value annually.

While it's possible, perhaps likely, that these absurd taxes will change under the Trump administration, the state should tread carefully. Whether Trump and Congressional Republicans will alter or repeal these taxes as they enact their own reforms is yet to be seen. As a matter of precaution and good statesmanship, the state should proceed as if these taxes will stay. Self-insurance is the only way to ensure taxpayers aren't forced to absorb these costs.

But the merits of self-insuring the state's workforce go far beyond just saving money on Obamacare taxes. By funding its own insurance claims, the state will have considerably more flexibility to implement cost-saving innovations.

When Governor Walker took office, he famously stated that Wisconsin is "Open for Business." He's pushed many reforms that made the state run more efficiently, an imperative businesses face every day. 

We'll find out what the proposals for self-insurance contained and what the GIB will decide at today's meeting. However, even with the uncertainly hanging over the future at the federal level, self-insuring the state government's workforce will apply a tried-and-true best practice and continue the tradition of running the state government with the taxpayer in mind.

Data: Nearly 18,000 Wisconsinites Gain Employment After Walker's Welfare Reforms

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 12:24

The latest batch of FoodShare Employment Training data shows that the reforms continue to have a strong impact on wages, hours

MacIver News Service | December 12, 2016

[Madison, Wis...] One and a half years after Gov. Scott Walker's welfare reforms went into effect, 17,801 Wisconsinites have gained employment through the FoodShare Employment Training (FSET) program. Those individuals continue to garner higher wages and more hours, continuing the prior year's trend, according to new data released by the Department of Health Services.

The new data provides a look into FSET participants' hours and wages for July through September of 2016. During that time, participants earned an average of $12.06 per hour, up from the previous three months' average of $11.99. Participants also worked an average of 32.9 hours per week, nearly 45 minutes more per week compared to the previous three months.

The FSET program now has more than 43,400 new participants across the state, all of whom have enrolled since April of 2015, when the welfare reforms went into effect.

The Walker administration's reforms require that able-bodied childless adults aged 18 to 49 must work, receive a form of job training, or a combination of both for 80 hours per month in order to receive FoodShare benefits. Individuals who choose not to comply with the work requirements for three months may no longer receive FoodShare benefits for 36 months thereafter.

Since the work requirements took effect, 59,000 individuals have lost FoodShare eligibility after failing to meet the work requirements. Those that comply, however, are seeing higher wages and more hours, helping make the Walker administration's case that the reforms would help Wisconsinites gain true independence.

Transportation Funding in the Hot Seat in Daylong Assembly Hearing

Wed, 12/07/2016 - 11:00

December 7, 2016

The contentious question of funding Wisconsin's transportation system took center stage in a lengthy hearing on Monday by the Assembly Committee on Transportation.

The day-long hearing started with nearly four hours of testimony by Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb. Gottlieb explained his agency's biennial budget request that increases funding for local projects, but puts some southeast Wisconsin megaprojects on hold. He also defended steps the DOT has taken to become more efficient over the past several years.

DOT saved $1.5b in recent years thru efficiency/innovation programs, $99m in FY16 via use of tech, best practices, says Gottlieb #WIpolitics

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

DOT Sec. Gottlieb has been testifying for 45 min. So far, mainly a recap on things we already know #WIpolitics pic.twitter.com/hGFZ54B96x

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

After his lengthy testimony, Gottlieb took questions from members of the Assembly Committee on Transportation. He explained the DOT's methodology for calculating how long roads would last. Road deterioration was a central concern throughout the day, as DOT calculations show that the deterioration of Wisconsin roadways will speed up in coming decades.

Sec. Gottleib explains how DOT calculates road deterioration projections in response to Q from @RepMacco #wipolitics pic.twitter.com/Ow0XgrZUQu

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

Some committee members pressed Gottlieb to state that the current funding level for the DOT is inadequate. Gottlieb admitted that construction cost inflation is rising faster than the agency's revenues.

Rep @Thiesfeldt: 4% annual ⬆️ in costs, relatively flat gas tax revenue. Gottleib: agrees costs growing faster than rev #wiright #wiroads

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

Rep. Joe Sanfelippo was critical of wasteful spending by the agency, asking Gottlieb a series of tough questions about the DOT's spending priorities and inaccurate project cost estimates. He also questioned money spent on unnecessarily expensive new traffic signals and, in a contentious exchange, critiqued spending by the DOT on travel to conferences and other junkets.

.@RepSanfelippo questions Gottleib on $300m under-estimate of I-39 corridor project. DOT sec admits original estimate was unrealistic

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

.@RepSanfelippo: "We're hearing a tale of two departments" at this hearing. Says truth is DOT not living within its means. #wiright

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

After Gottlieb's extensive testimony, a string of other groups also offered testimony. The Wisconsin Counties Association said they appreciate the increased aid for local projects in the DOT's 2017-19 budget, but also urged the committee members to push for a long-term funding solution. Echoing a recent video by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos in which he took a bumpy ride in an ambulance, one speaker with the Counties Association said EMTs are concerned about road conditions.

Rep for EMS svcs: road conditions are a big concern for ambulances, EMTs - says he wasn't aware Speaker Vos would release similar video

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities also testified along with a group of mayors and city administrators. They told the committee their municipalities have turned to bonding and new local taxes to pay for their roads as a result of decreasing state aid.

League of WI Munis: 13 of 16 local wheel taxes in WI were imposed in just the past few years. #wiright #wipolitics pic.twitter.com/MZqsGllLPD

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) December 6, 2016

The MacIver Institute live streamed most of the hearing, re-posted below:

**UPDATED** Senators: Gas Tax Would Nearly Double to 59 Cents Per Gallon if Transportation Projects All Move Forward

Mon, 12/05/2016 - 12:16

MacIver News Service | December 5, 2016

[Madison, Wisc...] Wisconsin's gas tax would need to almost double to fully fund the state's backlog of transportation projects and eliminate borrowing to pay for the projects, according to a new memo highlighted by Senators Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville).

The gas tax would have to increase by 28.1 cents per gallon to keep all the state's projects funded and pay for the Department of Transportation's normal operations, according to the memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), which was requested by Kapenga.

The 91 percent increase would add to the current 30.9 cent-per-gallon gas tax, for a total of 59 cents per gallon. If passed, Wisconsin would have the highest gas tax in the country, Kapenga told reporters on Monday.

During the 2015-17 budget debate, many legislators complained that borrowing for transportation was excessive and there were too many projects waiting to be funded.

An increase of that amount would total $1.8 billion in new tax revenue over the biennium, the memo states. The state would spend more than $3.7 billion on transportation in total over the 2017-19 budget, which is the overall amount the DOT has said would be necessary to complete all its projects on time.

That spending, outlined in the LFB memo, amounts to $723.4 million for the major highway development program, $700 million for the southeast Wisconsin freeway megaprojects program, and $2.3 billion for highway rehabilitation.

As I've said, I will not support increases to the gas tax or vehicle registration fee w/o corresponding decreases in other state taxes. pic.twitter.com/Dl7Sh5IkHZ

— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) December 5, 2016

Kapenga and Stroebel made it clear that they don't support any tax increases to fund the backlog of projects.

"We are already in the highest tier in the nation for the gas tax, and our total transportation revenues have increased every year for the past 20 years," said Kapenga. "We don't have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem."

The memo assumes no bonding for any projects. While bonding for transportation is at historically low levels, some lawmakers have criticized the use of excessive borrowing to pay for transportation projects.

"If we don't take responsibility for this and do this the right way, we are just going to be doing the same thing 60 or 70 years down the road and our kids and grandkids are going to have to deal with the same issue," Kapenga said.

Some members of the Assembly have been vocal in their desire to find a long-term solution to Wisconsin's transportation funding shortfall, but reluctant to say if they would increase the gas tax or the vehicle registration fee to fix the problem.

Both senators criticized the Assembly for not being specific about how much they're willing to increase the gas tax. "I would call for the Assembly to put out a plan," Stroebel said.

Walker also called on the Assembly to put out a specific plan in a statement on Monday. "If the Assembly leadership's plan is to raise taxes it would come as a surprise to November voters. They should make their plan public so the people understand exactly how much it would cost them."

Both senators support the Department of Transportation's 2017-19 budget proposal championed by Gov. Walker. The proposal reduces funding for certain megaprojects, increases funding for local projects, and doesn't raise taxes.

In June, Walker called directly upon DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb to propose an agency budget request that would not raise the gas tax or fees without a reduction elsewhere. Walker's letter instructed Gottlieb to submit the DOT request early, with low bonding, and focusing on safety and road maintenance.

By all accounts, Gottleib's proposal fulfills those requests and sets bonding levels at $500 million over the biennium, the lowest amount since the 2001-03 budget and a dramatic 41 percent decrease from the previous budget, which bonded $850 million for transportation projects.

"For decades, the state's gas tax has been among the highest in the nation. Raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees without an equal or greater reduction in taxes elsewhere is not an option, and it would throw a wet blanket on our growing economy," Walker wrote in an open letter to Gottlieb in June.

Kapenga pointed out that every one-cent increase in the gas tax raises taxes by a total of $33 million. "We're saying that the wrong answer is to go and do tax increases permanently to fix the problem. I think the Governor's approach was prudent," he said.

A second scenario in the memo states that with no bonding, the Department of Transportation's 2017-19 budget request would require a 7.2 cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, a 20 percent increase. Stroebel and Kapenga oppose any gas tax increase.

The Assembly will hold a hearing on transportation funding tomorrow.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos released a video showing him riding in an ambulance to demonstrate the poor conditions of some roads and the safety concerns surrounding those conditions. He also tweeted a list of reasons the state needs more transportation revenue as Stroebel and Kapenga spoke with reporters on a conference call Monday:

Transportation Fast Facts ahead of tomorrow's Assembly Transportation Committee. #RoadWorkAhead pic.twitter.com/HLQRXRsrIn

— Speaker Robin Vos (@SpeakerVos) December 5, 2016

Vos called Kapenga's memo and the 91 percent figure "fear mongering" in a statement released late Monday. "Instead of using selective accounting and Madison math, I'm choosing to use my 20+ years of business and negotiating experience to look at the problem globally. Instead of cherry picking my own facts and fear mongering, I will work in good faith to work toward the best possible solution to this problem, taking into account all options available," Vos said.

Follow MacIver's Twitter feed for live coverage of the hearing.

Pages