State Rep. Chris Taylor
Op-Ed

Ron Johnson and State’s Infrastructure Decline

He’s regularly voted against federal funding for roads, bridges, railways, airports

By - Jun 24th, 2016 11:40 am
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Road Closed. Photo by Dave Reid.

Road Closed. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin’s aging infrastructure is falling apart. A recent study by the Department of Transportation found our roads were the fourth worst in the nation. We need to invest in our roads, bridges and public transit network, but sadly the lackluster state of our infrastructure has fallen on deaf ears.

And it’s not just Republicans in Madison that have turned a blind eye, it’s also Republicans in Washington, especially Sen. Ron Johnson.

Over the past five and a half years, Johnson has voted against bills that would have increased funding for the state’s roads, bridges, railways and airports. In 2012, Johnson voted against authorizing more than $100 billion in transportation funding. Then in 2013, he voted against a transportation bill that included $500 million to repair bridges. For those keeping track, Wisconsin has nearly 2,000 bridges in need of repair.

And it’s not just our roads. Johnson opposed a high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee, and he was one of only eight senators to oppose an FAA reauthorization bill designed to save consumers money and modernize the air traffic control system. Even on bipartisan bills, Johnson has sided with ultra-conservative Republicans instead of Wisconsinites.

The quality of our infrastructure costs drivers in Wisconsin. On average, Madison drivers spend $2,000 dollars on car repairs. That’s real money that families who are struggling to make ends meet could sorely use.

At the same time, Johnson’s inaction has stalled our investment in public transit. If you live outside a major city you have no option but to drive, which can be especially difficult for the elderly and individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, public transit is crucial for attracting and retaining young workers who are the backbone of economic growth, which here in Wisconsin has been lagging compared to the rest of the country. Building out our public transportation systems ensures that every Wisconsinite can live with dignity, while at the same time develops the infrastructure that powers 21st century economies.

Chris Taylor, D-Madison, represents District 76 in the Wisconsin Assembly.

This column originally ran in the Cap Times.

2 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Ron Johnson and State’s Infrastructure Decline”

  1. Dan Shea says:

    I’m struggling to understand where Chris Taylor is coming from in this is in fact the entire article that was published. If it was, I would have to agree with Sen. Johnson. At no point in time did Chris Taylor state where the $100 billion would come from? Yes, that was BILLION. Nor where the $500 million would? I would never presume to tell Chris Taylor how to run her personal household but I can state that it’s a terrible policy to outspend the money you bring in. I’m disappointed that it was a much scorned article aimed at Sen. Johnson that by no means addressed the facts….but went straight to “feelings” and tried to tug on the heart strings of every blue collar worker reading this article. This IS one of the reasons we have the polarization we do in our country. Politicians (used in a general tone) only what to state their “thoughts and feelings” with little to no regard for the short AND long term ramifications. It truly disgusts me and I’m disappointed that it was published. In the future please consider publishing articles that have a “Point & Counter-Point” so all the reads can see both sides and make up their own mind vs. being herded in a direction like sheep. End of rant!

  2. QX4guy says:

    Dan Shea does a nice job of expressing the same reaction I had to this op/ed piece. But I ALSO have to wonder if Rep Taylor is okay and if she likes her job.

    I say that because she obviously was a bright young woman as evidenced by her cum laude graduation from a prestigious Ivy League university, and then got a law degree from a respectable law school. Now, perhaps, she is sufficiently bored in the state legislature to spend time writing a nonsensical piece like this one. Or maybe she has a college or high school student interning for her as a writer and aspiring PR flak.

    What justifies the headline, first off? Johnson had nothing substantive to do with the $100 billion highway funding bill. It passed the Senate by a 4-1 margin, so everyone knew that it was a slam dunk. Experience tells us in cases like this a legislator sometimes casts a objecting vote for reasons of principle even though it will not affect the substantive outcome. So why did Sen Johnson vote against it? I don’t know, but I can conjure up some hypothetical reasons, as follows:

    Maybe he thought the significant funding provided via the bill was likely to be used for unnecessary “pork” in the states; wouldn’t be the first time.

    Maybe he thought the $100 billion was too much or not enough given the needs and given the financial bind the Federal Govt was in at the time; I doubt the latter (“not enough”), but who knows?

    Maybe he thought the amount being granted to WI wasn’t “fair”. After all, Wisconsin got about 1.4% of the funding, whereas the state population is more like 1.8% of the US population. And, as Rep Taylor points out, Wisconsin’s roads on balance are among the worst in the country. So maybe he thought the amount flowing our way should be 30% or even 50% greater than it was.

    Maybe he thinks that some of the funding provided by the Fed Govt should rightly be the responsibility of states, a Federalist philosophical view re: local versus central government accountability.

    And so on… but I doubt he voted as he did because he is in favor of Madison residents paying more of their wages for car repairs. Is he in league with the Auto Repair Providers of America and just greasing the skids for them to become rich?

    Which brings me to the ridiculous point made by the author about car repair spending in Madison being inordinately high because of Senator Johnson. Come on, Rep Taylor, you should really know better than to toss that factoid in as if it were somehow relevant.

    This article is nothing more than a piece of sophomoric campaign propaganda, and unconvincing at that. The word “vapid” comes to mind.

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