Former Democratic Party Chairman Matt Flynn, D-Milwaukee, a four-time election loser, joined the field of second-tier Democratic candidates for governor this week with a promise to create “a lock box” for transportation funding. But, as Media Trackers points out, Wisconsin already has in the state constitution a requirement to keep transportation funds separate from the rest of the budget.

In a conversation with Scott Waras and Melissa Barclay on WTMJ-AM, Flynn said he would restore gas tax indexing, an automatic annual increase in the gas tax to match inflation that the legislature would not have to approve.

“I think we’re going to have to look at re-indexing the gas tax but at a lesser level than before,” Flynn said. “And we have to put it in a lock box so that we no longer raid the way they used to before.”

But, as Media Trackers reminds everyone, the voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2014 permanently segregating transportation funds after former Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat that Flynn supported, raided the transportation fund for $1.3 billion over eight years.

Flynn then criticized Walker for turning down federal money in 2011 to build a “high speed” train that would have moved slower between Milwaukee and Madison at an average speed of 57 mph. Despite the $810 million in proposed federal funding, the state would have been still responsible for the ongoing operating costs, adding more pressure to the state transportation budget. Local governments would have also been responsible for the construction costs of stops along the way, up to $30 million for one proposed station in Oconomowoc.

It is unknown how much the federal government would have subsidized the construction of the “high speed” rail segment between Madison and Minneapolis to complete the project, meaning there would likely have been a higher burden on the state’s strained transportation funding.

As for increasing the gas tax, an analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau found that the state would have to nearly double the existing gas tax to fund all the proposed transportation spending without borrowing. It would have meant a $1.8 billion gas tax increase in the 2017-19 budget, making Wisconsin’s gas tax the highest in the country.

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