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Sep 19, 201610:22 PMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Republicans take a fork in the (disintegrating?) roads

(page 1 of 2)

Today’s blog is extra special deplorable for the basket weavers in the peanut gallery.

Nothing is as cohesive or disciplined as a legislature with a one-vote majority. But give any party some cushion and watch its members go free range. That is what is happening to Scott Walker and his Republican legislature.

Battle lines are drawn over transportation funding. It is a face-off of two pet causes dear and near to every conservative: tax cuts versus good roads.

The governor made his bones as a tax cutter. But other rock-solid conservatives like Speaker Robin Vos, Joint Finance Committee chairman John Nygren, and rural Lodi Republican Rep. Keith Ripp demand major road repairs and construction and that will cost money. And they may have support from Democrats!

Source: Transportation Development Assn.

Facing a $1 billion shortfall, Walker proposes increasing maintenance by $70 million and $65 million for local roads over the next two years, but overall transportation spending (mostly roads but also airports, freight rail, and mass transit) would be cut by $447.4 million. The governor would borrow $500 million to make ends meet. Major projects, like Verona Road at Raymond Road would be delayed. (Works for me.)

But many of Wisconsin’s roads are crumbling, this motorcyclist attests. TRIP, a national transportation research group, puts 42% of main Wisconsin roads in mediocre to poor condition; in the Madison area, it’s 68%.

The problem: Fuel-efficient vehicles are using less gasoline, thereby paying less gasoline tax. Electric vehicles avoid the gas tax altogether. It doesn’t help that Jim Doyle raided the transportation fund to balance the budget.

Limited sources of revenue

Which brings up another point: transportation spending does not come out of the sales and income tax-funded general fund. Wisconsin finances road construction and maintenance from just three sources: the gas tax, vehicle registrations, and federal contributions.      

Various proposals have been floated to increase transportation funding. In 2013, the DOT-commissioned Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission proposed:

  • Raising the state gas tax by five cents per gallon (the first increase since 2006) from the current 30.9 cents and switch to a formula rather than a fixed rate;
  • Increasing the fee for the state’s eight-year drivers’ license by $20; and
  • Eliminating the sales tax exemption on the trade-in value of a vehicle.

Two years ago, the Department of Transportation floated these ideas:

  • Creating a new 2.5% highway use fee on the purchase price of new automobiles and light trucks;
  • Charging owners of hybrid and electric cars an extra $50 on their registration fee.

All told, the proposals would raise $750 million annually and cost the average vehicle owner $120 a year. Proponents claim that’s still lower than transportation taxes and fees in neighboring Minnesota and Iowa.


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Comments, page 1 of 2 1 2 Next »
Sep 20, 2016 07:49 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

how long ago did Doyle raid the budget? how about putting the real blame on walker cutting the budgets to make ends meet and taking care of all his cronies. how about using the money his pet project lost.(WEDA). just a thought, has he ever reached his goal of jobs created yet? get rid of the bum and Wisconsin may prosper again.

Sep 20, 2016 08:45 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Yup, the old "Doyle did it", defense. But so did Tommy Thompson, amazingly forgotten by good ol' Dave. And Dave forgot to mention that the legislature also removed the automatic indexing of the gas tax, but that wouldn't have helped his case. But I'm not sure what Dave is promoting here, he just seems to want to take a kick at Doyle, sorta say the roads are crappy, and give a flaccid heads-up on the big TDA shindig. For a guy so opinionated he sure fell short on this issue.

If you earn your living in agriculture, logging or tourism you realize how important transportation, especially the local road system is to your survival. Dave may be temporarily inconvenienced by Verona Road construction, but if I can't get my product to market in a timely and efficient manner I go bankrupt (sorta like Trump,eh).

Sep 20, 2016 11:41 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

This is a great post taking advantage of your insight as a connected Republican and understanding of an issue with lots of history. As a Dane County business owner who is far less political than practical, I really appreciate it more than the other stuff you write. More of this, please.

Sep 20, 2016 04:38 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

anon 7:49 am, Doyle raided the transportation fund of over a billion dollars instead of making hard choices like enacting ACT 10 which if he had done would most likely of saved his career as governor and made him electable for all. Instead he kept the same crap in place and then also forced workers to take unpaid days off, which was also a loss of income btw.

But you are correct that is quite some time ago. As a 3 time voter and will be a 4th time voter if he runs again. I did see his Taxcuts should have been more minimal with the surplus he had, he basically had to refund many funds that had been used up from 3 previous administrations. If he uses that surplus for a few years to build the transportation funding and to get these projects done on time.
We would have been in much better shape and then he could have formulated a better tax cutting plan.

Instead he is doing exactly what he setup out not to do which was more borrowing.

Sep 21, 2016 11:26 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

So Walker doesnt raise taxes but he borrows 500 mil to get it done over the next couple yrs. Dave, how much has he borrowed to show a "balanced" budget throughout his tenure? Just curious. Cry about Doyle all you want but the present Moron is just kicking the can down the road for others to deal with. He's not fooling me. Walker owns this and he can wear it as well as answer for it!

Sep 21, 2016 01:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Anon 4:38

He borrowed 850 mil for the last 2 yrs just for roads. Where have you been?

Sep 21, 2016 02:33 pm
 Posted by  Mrbillsbrain

It's still Bush's fault for all things Obama, but Doyle's raid of Transportation Fund of $1.3 Billion put on a Credit card like bonding the taxpayers will be paying out for over 20 years to give to the teacher's union, his steal of $200 million from the private Doc/Nurse funded private fund, his stiffing MN for $60 million in reciprical tuition remission, forced unpaid furrows for all state workers- those are sacred cows that can not be sited?

I personally support a nickel increase in gas tax now while gas prices are low, indexing it for yearly increase- like a penny a year as before, higher license fee, requiring all 18 yr.and over bicycle owners a yearly license fee of $20, exploring a waiver from feds to build toll highways and cuts in spending for transit and highway beautification, transportation museums etc.
All the legislators mentioned can find cuts in other areas as Walker requires to get more money for transportation. Step and do just that.

Sep 21, 2016 10:40 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dave; kind of a tepid article for you. No nose picking, almost a delegate, extended vacation with your buddies today. An actual attempt at discussing a problem. Trouble started with scooter's tax cuts, refusing federal money for the railroad, Wisconsin Economic Disaster and Corruption mess, companies leaving (latest one is the foundry), millions spent defending stupid laws and losing, no jobs, on and on. Those road building guys who gave scottie a boat-load of money must be really peeved. They paid up front to get both front feet in the trough and now things are being delayed. Quite a difference between building interstate highways and fighting over a few bucks to fill potholes. I bet there are more than a few e-mails being exchanged and deleted from those guys.

Sep 22, 2016 10:13 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

anon 1:47 pm.

Correct, Hmm you obviously cannot read, I am a conservative but I felt the taxcuts could have waited until he was able to transfer the 1.2 billion back to the transportation fund that previous people raided. He refunded and paid off a ton of things that also should have been a goal not tax cuts and lowering of tax withholding. It just was not prudent to do at that time. if he does not do the taxcuts he does not need to borrow money for transportation projects.

Medical Malpractice fund, Owed Minnesota money, Cracking down on fraudulent daycare's, Cracking down on food stamp fraud, cracking down on foster child fraud,stopping the great cow speed train debacle, not being held hostage to medicaid money which if you read the news that money has dried up and other states are now scrambling to cover those growing debts.

None of the major road projects should be stopped or delayed, these projects are major because without businesses have a harder time moving goods and services allowing for more business investments.

The Beltline project in Madison, has paid for itself how many times over with business growth all along that corridor. Roads are essential for business growth period. Get the verona road project done on time, get the zoo interchange done on time. get the appletonoshgosh roads done on time.

Raise taxes for roads and borrow what you need to to get them done. Jobs baby Jobs

Sep 22, 2016 10:23 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

10:40 pm, how would an over budget train debacle help the transporation fund, it would be a cow speed rail stopping at every town taking people twice as long to get anywhere. all those so called train money that was given out has not proven to help anywhere and is a wash once the money dries up and the states are left holding the bag. That was being pushed because gas was $3.00 dollars a gallon which we found out was a complete lack of supply. Ala Fracking in the USA solved the oil supply problem for possible 100 years or more.

The Wisconsin economic disaster he tried to rebrand the disaster he was left with prior that was ineffective as well. The lack of oversight and accounting was ridiculous. It failed before and again, time to move on from and do away with it.

no jobs huh, last I looked we seem to be holding the line on jobs adding and loosing at the same rate. Also our economy is changing from 30 year plant union worker to a more agile environment.

I do agree he with the taxcuts and lowering of withholding was and is and issue, he did not replenish the transportation fund when he should have for 3 or 4 years to get it back to where it belongs that has been raided and mistreated for years. Building and fixing roads is expensive and it never gets cheaper. raise the taxes, cut more department budgets and borrow to get these project funded and done on time now.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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