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Nov 10, 201410:35 AMTransportation Matters

with Debby Jackson

On transportation fund, public gets it even if pundits don’t

(page 1 of 2)

Talk about misreading the outcome of an election. When it comes to the constitutional amendment to segregate the transportation fund, many of the state’s pundits have been so far off the mark it’s laughable. On Election Day, 80% of Wisconsin voters, more than 1.7 million people, voted to amend the constitution so that the transportation user fees we pay have to be spent on maintaining and improving the transportation system.

Let me say that again: 80%. Other than asking if the Packers are your favorite NFL team, there’s likely no other issue that could have garnered that kind of agreement in the Badger State.

So what kind of media analysis has followed this clearest of mandates? Snarky, cynical, and I guess pithy remarks such as “a bonanza for the roadbuilders” or “they are now the first special-interest group in Wisconsin to have their own constitutional amendment. We will soon find out if it’s possible to pave over an entire state.”

Really? That’s the analysis? Gee, I can’t figure out why the public is a bit jaundiced.

This amendment doesn’t give the companies that have the audacity to design, engineer, and build roads and bridges in this state one penny. The Legislature and governor still decide, if I’m not mistaken, where to set those taxes and fees. It’s also their job to determine funding priorities within the transportation fund. All this amendment did was ensure that the transportation user fees we do pay will … wait for it … wait for it … actually be spent on transportation. The nerve!

Our vehicle registration fee is currently $75 a year for most of us. That didn’t change as a result of this amendment. The Legislature and governor could make that $1 a year or $1,000. All this did was stipulate that wherever it’s set, the proceeds will go to maintain and improve our transportation system.

This “analysis” also misses the fact that Wisconsin has a multimodal transportation fund. That’s why the Wisconsin Airport Management Association, the Wisconsin Ports Association, and the Wisconsin Urban and Rural Transit Association were all part of a coalition that pushed for this change.

Do any of these pundits even remember how the drive for this amendment got rolling? County governments across the state took the bull by the horns and placed advisory questions before the voters in 2010. Fifty-four counties asked if we should amend the state constitution to require these funds be used for their intended purpose. Another 11 counties passed resolutions in support. Voters back then sent a clear message that they wanted this protection. Legislators listened.


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Nov 11, 2014 02:50 pm
 Posted by  Torrey

Well said. I was amazed at how many politicians, my own representatives included, were arguing against this amendment on the view that it is a "giveaway" to the transportation industry. Were they not aware that just because there is money in the fund does not mean it has to be spent? If the transportation fund builds up surpluses, then fees and taxes can be lowered as it's evident that current levels are set too high. This amendment ensures that if such a situation ever does exist, we don't have to worry about legislators raiding the fund and finding another use for the monies - which I can guarantee they would.

Nov 12, 2014 03:01 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Do you really think that the general public is better informed than pundits?

Nov 14, 2014 09:44 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Few people are well informed when it comes to transportation, and that includes both the pundits and the general public. One of the missing pieces of information that I have verified is missing is the fact that according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the projected net transfer from 2003 until the end of the 2015 (current) budget cycle is $314 million FROM General Purpose Revenue to the transportation fund. That's right, the raid is from general revenue!

None other than Craig Thompson has worked hard to prevent people from understanding this fact. On the Joy Cardine Show, the host expressed surprise that the net transfers from General Revenue exceeded the transfers from transportation, but there was Craig, quickly distracting listeners by suggesting it was "normal" to take money from the general fund for transportation. Normal or not, for there to be a real harm created by a raid, the net transfer needs to be from Transportation to The General Fund.

Now why would someone like Craig Thompson, who represents groups that directly profit when transportation spending is increased, want to conceal the real balance of funds? And after this measure passed, why do you think he would again try to distract us from wondering who is going to benefit by churning up rage against groups who supposedly think the pundits know more than the general public? You know, Thompson was critical of Fred Risser on the Joy Cardine show for sinking so low as to call groups out for having an agenda when there is a higher level of thinking needed. How Ironic that it is now the transportation builders who are now distracting us from the real issue.

And what is the real issue? For starters, WISDOT is begging for $680mil more - yet federal studies show the return on highway investment is very poor. Why do you think would Thompson want to distract people away from that fact?

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About This Blog

 Debby Jackson assumed the role of executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin after more than 15 years with the organization. In addition to her vast experience in association management and transportation advocacy, Jackson has a background in business. She leverages the breadth and depth of her professional experience, along with her knowledge of the membership and mission of TDA, to be a strong voice for robust transportation infrastructure in Wisconsin. Jackson started her career as a staff auditor with Price Waterhouse, which led to a series of accounting and corporate management positions with a major national retailer.

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