MADISON -- State Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb has become the fourth high-ranking official in Gov. Scott Walker's administration to resign in 2016 after controversies.
Walker announced Gottlieb's plan to quit Tuesday in a news release. The decision comes on the eve of a big fight over road funding and with the state facing an estimated $1 billion shortfall.
Gottlieb said this month that Wisconsin roads would be in worse shape under Walker's proposed budget, which delays projects and seeks to borrow $500 million to plug the funding gap. Gottlieb said the percentage of Wisconsin highways in poor condition would double from 21 percent in 2018 to 42 percent in 2027.
"The governor`s made a determination that this is not the right time to raise taxes and fees on Wisconsin families and businesses. That`s the decision that he`s made," Gottlieb said during a December 6th hearing in Madison.
A Walker ally told FOX6 News that Gottlieb's testimony helped the governor's opponents in the road funding debate. Unlike Walker, top Assembly Republicans are willing to increase taxes or fees to pay for roads.
Three other Walker administration officials resigned this year amid controversy.
Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale quit in January after news reports revealed that he gave little punishment to state employees who were caught having sex at work.
In February, Department of Corrections Secretary Ed Wall resigned amid the ongoing abuse scandal at Lincoln Hills youth detention center.
In November, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos announced his resignation. King Veterans Home faces a state audit over quality of care. The federal government has fined the state and downgraded King's rating after the death of a 94-year-old man.
Walker announced that Department of Safety and Professional Services Secretary Dave Ross will become the Transportation Department's new leader.
In the news release announcing Gottlieb's resignation, Walker did not thank his long-time DOT secretary, who has served since January 2011. The governor later sent a series of tweets praising Gottlieb's work.
A spokesman for Governor Walker said Gottlieb plans to retire and spend more time with his family.
The Walker spokesman did not answer when FOX6 News asked whether Governor Walker was pleased with Gottlieb's committee testimony this month.
Top Assembly Republicans and road builders praised Gottlieb's work as Transportation secretary.
"We’re losing one of the finest transportation secretaries that Wisconsin's ever had," said Terry McGowan of the Operating Engineers Local 139. "I’m sure he did not want a failed transportation infrastructure program to be his legacy after all the work he’s put into this thing."
Pat Goss, executive director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association, said he did not believe Walker forced Gottlieb out for his committee testimony earlier this month. The road builders' group opposes Walker's transportation spending proposal.
"Our leaders are going to have to make a decision about whether they want to fix those problems and address those needs or no," Goss said.