Time to Revisit Transportation Funding Solutions
71 percent of Wisconsin's roads are rated in poor or mediocre condition.
Now that Governor Scott Walker has quit the presidential race it is time to revisit the many issues that held up the Wisconsin State Budget because of his presidential ambition. One of the largest is transportation funding. Transportation funding has not just been flat over the past few budgets it has been bleeding and pulling money from the general fund just to fill pot holes. Our state funding commitment to roads is horrible for nearly every community in the state. We need a long term solution so that we can fix roads, replace roads, and repeal the delays in mid-stream projects. The US Department of Transportation and the National Engineers Association found Wisconsin had the third worst roads in the entire country.
One of those delayed mid-stream projects is the Verona Road project. Another is the I-90 project. Both are essential corridor projects for southern Wisconsin. We know project delays force taxpayers to pay more. Not only will the businesses along the corridor suffer longer because of the delay, motorists who travel every day see more delays, and every single taxpayer in the state will pay more for the project because of the delays. It is time to stop robbing Peter to pay Paul and for the Majority to have the guts to implement a long term transportation solution.
It is not just the delayed projects and those communities that suffer, it is projects all over the state from rural roads, county highways, Main Streets and state highways. There is not a shortage of funds in the state budget. There is a shortage of funds in the transportation budget. This segregated fund budget is supposed to be self-sufficient. However the last three budgets the transportation budget has pulled from the general fund just to try to support some of the scheduled maintenance and projects. Even the Governor acknowledged we have a transportation crisis in our state. He asked his Sectary of Transportation to bring partners to the table to find a long term solution. They found many solutions, some of which were even palatable to the majority of the Legislature. However, presidential politics put a stop to all funding ideas.
Wisconsin is rated third worst in the nation for highway infrastructure with 71 percent of roads in poor or mediocre condition. This is not just a failure to finance by Republicans who were willing to put off projects in their own district because they were supporting their Governor, this is dangerous for travelers and bad for business.
Transportation was the last agency budget we passed in the Joint Committee on Finance because my colleagues and I from both sides of the aisle desperately tried to come up with a presidential palatable solution. That did not happen. It is time to commit to transportation funding so we can reverse delays, get these roads fixed, create some construction jobs and protect businesses all over our state.
Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, is a member of the Wisconsin state Senate.