Skip to content

Wisconsin voters to decide future use of transportation fund

A Column of Personal Opinion by State Senator Sheila Harsdorf

With a number of hard-fought campaigns being contested this election season, voters may not have heard much about the proposed amendment to the state Constitution that will be decided on November 4th. Under Wisconsin’s Constitution, proposed constitutional amendments must be passed by both the State Assembly and State Senate in two consecutive legislative sessions and then approved by voters in a statewide referendum. The proposed constitutional amendment that voters will decide though the statewide ballot question this fall is whether revenues deposited into the transportation fund should be available for other spending purposes by state government.

Currently, tax and fee revenues that are collected for transportation purposes, such as the gas tax and vehicle registration fees, are deposited into the transportation fund to fund our state’s transportation needs. As a result of past decisions to use tax revenue from the transportation fund for spending on other state programs, the state’s transportation fund was financially compromised. While the current administration and State Legislature have sought to reverse this trend by using surplus funds to restore these past transfers from the transportation fund, it is projected that the state’s transportation needs will outpace transportation fund revenues by $650 million in the next two years.

Following the transfers of money from the transportation fund, I and many of my legislative colleagues sought to find way to prevent similar raids in the future. By placing limits on the use of transportation fund revenues in the state Constitution, these funds would be protected from being used for purposes other than which they were collected for from taxpayers. I was a co-sponsor of the resolutions proposing this constitutional protection, which were approved by wide, bipartisan votes in both the State Senate and State Assembly.

The specific question that will be brought before voters on November 4th will be: Shall section of 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin’s transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?

A “yes” vote in favor of this question will limit the use of the transportation fund for transportation purposes only. A “no” vote against this question would allow future governors and legislators to use transportation fund revenues for other spending priorities.

I hope this information is useful as you make your decision for this fall’s election. Please feel free to contact me on this or any other issue by calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745 or sending me an e-mail at