The Contrarian

Highways Issue Will Hurt Republicans

Democrats used LFB report to eviscerate GOP record at legislative hearing.

By - Jun 15th, 2018 01:28 pm
Howard Marklein. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2015-16.

Howard Marklein. Photo from the State of Wisconsin Blue Book 2015-16.

If control of the Wisconsin Senate flips in November, Exhibit A as to why was on full display at the Joint Finance committee yesterday.

Look no further than state Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green). His decision to vote against the committee’s GOP majority on decisions involving the I-94 North-South project and other highway issues speaks volumes. Marklein faces a demanding re-election campaign. As in many other districts throughout the state, poor roads in SW Wisconsin are a big deal. Observers from both parties who are close to this week’s two special elections agree that transportation problems were the number one or two issue.

(Full disclosure: I watched only a portion of the hearing. It was such a beat down I felt little need to watch Republicans try to deal with the lousy hand dealt to them by Governor Scott Walker.)

The tone was set from the get-go. Democratic State Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison used a lengthy report from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau to pose politically damaging charges — in the form of leading questions — to the LFB analyst. His low-key responses basically confirmed Taylor’s narrative, namely that out-state roads are in poor condition and tens of millions that could be used to address the problem have been re-allocated to work involving Foxconn. The LFB data allowed Taylor to eviscerate the GOP record under Walker on transportation.

It’s a record “highlighted” by more roads in poor condition, a doubling of highway debt service, and the basic unraveling of a bipartisan commitment to rebuild Eisenhower-era freeways that are unsafe and at the end of their useful lives. It’s a record of ignoring reports from not one, not two, but three qualified commissions who looked at the state’s transportation financing challenges. The most recent of those reports was authored by a panel created with Scott Walker’s signature.

Democratic Rep. Katrina Shankland of Stevens Point reinforced Taylor’s presentation with fact-based examples, offered in obviously political terms, that could not be refuted.

Committee Co-Chair, Rep. John Nygren, a Green Bay-area Republican, was in the rather awkward position of asking Democrats not to exploit the situation for political gain. Sure. In June. In an election year.

Nygren’s position was particularly challenging inasmuch as he understands the broad issue quite well. He’s one of a group of Republican legislators who have argued unsuccessfully about the need to address the obvious, indisputable gap between current law revenue and needed spending.

Yours truly gets enough predictions wrong that it’s only fair to say “I told you so” when the opportunity arises. Writing more than two years ago at RightWisconsin I observed that Republicans would “own” this issue in 2018 if they failed to act. At the end of 2017 one of my predictions for this year was that “state Democrats will score points by highlighting delays in out-state road work due to Foxconn.”

It gives me no pleasure to be right in both cases, and to see Republicans at the brink on this issue. I have been an active campaign worker and contributor for more than two decades, with most of my energy and time going to Republican candidates. That commitment makes it all the more difficult to watch the GOP effectively abdicate responsibility for a basic governmental service.

9 thoughts on “The Contrarian: Highways Issue Will Hurt Republicans”

  1. Caligula says:

    It’s Obama’s fault! It’s Hillary’s fault! It’s the libtards fault!

    I stand with Walker
    Governor for LIFE!
    Deal with it libtards

  2. Dumbledore says:

    I agree with your premise that the transportation funding issue will hurt Republican legislators, but mostly because they won’t place the blame squarely on the Governor where it belongs. Plenty of Republican legislators at the highest levels were pursuing meaningful proposals only to be completely shot down by the Governor. Legislators discussed fuel taxes, registration fees, tolling and other options and even played by the Governor’s rules by proposing corresponding cuts in other areas, all to no avail.

  3. Troll says:

    If Walker would have raised gas taxes or vehicle registrations then the Democrats would have hammered him for raising taxes. Funny the state just allocated about $ 70 million to transportation not one Democrat voted to give money to transportation.

  4. Dumbledore says:

    Can’t believe I’m engaging a troll, but two factual errors and one serious political error:

    1. The STATE did not allocate $67 million additional to transportation. That was entirely federal highway money that can only be used for highways. All the Joint Finance Committee does is direct it to specific transportation purposes.

    2. The Democrats didn’t vote to NOT give the money to transportation (which was impossible), they voted on how it was to be distributed. ALL of it was going to transportation regardless and state law would have said it would go to wherever the DOT directed if the Joint Finance Committee didn’t act within two weeks.

    3. Finally, plenty of Democrats have publicly been calling for funding increases as have plenty of Republican legislators. In fact, it was the Governor who vetoed additional movement towards tolling that the Legislature – both Democrats and Republicans – added to the state budget.

  5. Troll says:

    The left only cares about ending the usage of personal vehicles/

  6. Georgio says:

    Hey Troll – the Cons should have done the right thing. Intead they make all their declisions basesd on what they think will get them elected. Very poor leadership.

  7. Georgio says:

    The only reason Howie voted against this committee action was solely in his best interests.

  8. David says:


    I don’t know about the “left” in general, but I’m all about ending the use of personal vehicles. Yours in particular actually.

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