Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Infrastructure Funds Impact Entire State

Every person, every region in state helped. Yet package divided state's congressional delegation.

By - Dec 6th, 2021 11:36 am
Lead service lines replaced by the Milwaukee Water Works with corrosion control visible in pipe. Image from Milwaukee Water Works.

Lead service lines replaced by the Milwaukee Water Works with corrosion control visible in pipe. Image from Milwaukee Water Works.

It divided Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation – all Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed – but the new $1.2 trillion infrastructure package will touch every part of the state and every resident in one way or another.

Want safer, improved Wisconsin highways and rebuilt bridges? “Wisconsin could expect to receive approximately $1.1 billion in new funding over five years – an increase of about 25%,” Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson said. “In addition, Wisconsin would receive an estimated $225 million for bridge replacement and repairs.”

Own an electric vehicle, or thinking about buying one? “New funding to expand electric vehicle infrastructure, such as charging stations, will provide approximately $15.7 million per year, for a total of $78.6 million over the life of the Act,” Thompson said.

“As auto manufacturers transition to producing more electric vehicles, this funding will better position Wisconsin to accommodate the increased need for electric vehicle infrastructure for motorists and businesses,” he added.

Want improved bus service in communities – Milwaukee County and Madison, especially? The infrastructure package includes $158 million more over the next five years for bus systems, according to a summary by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB).

“That amounts to an increase of about 30% in the first year and about 2% each subsequent year,” Thompon said.

Want Broadband expanded to rural corners of Wisconsin? Internet access is so expensive, and yet so crucial to the economic viability of those regions, that governments must subsidize it. Wisconsin could get an additional $1.1 billion more in upcoming years to expand Broadband, the Fiscal Bureau reported. Wisconsin could also get $270 million more to subsidize what Broadband costs low-income residents, and $30 million to improve access to it.

Want the state’s airports improved? “Funds that could directly impact Wisconsin airports will potentially double the amount of funding per year Wisconsin will receive,” Thompson said.

Got a neighbor or family member whose income may qualify for weatherization programs to help their home conserve energy? The infrastructure package includes $132 million more in federal aid for weatherization programs, although it is not known over how many years that aid will be distributed. By comparison, federal weatherization aid totaled $21.8 million in 2019-20; utilities contributed $56.2 million more that year.

Worried about cybersecurity? The infrastructure package would give Wisconsin $19.1 million over four years to strengthen protective systems. It would also let Wisconsin utilities apply for separate cybersecurity grants.

Worried about the increasing number of homes and businesses whose drinking water shows levels of toxic chemicals? The infrastructure package authorizes about $210 million more in federal aid over five years for clean water and safe drinking water grants, which require some state matching dollars.

And regulating PFAs — the so-called “forever chemicals” found in northeast Wisconsin, in Dane County’s lakes and other parts of the state — would be funded by $95 million for “emerging contaminants.”

Is your home, or a neighbor’s home, one of the estimated 219,000 statewide with dangerous lead-lined pipes? Infrastructure funds will give Wisconsin about $255 million — or $51 million per year for five years — to replace those lead pipes, the Fiscal Bureau estimated..

Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore said that will most help Milwaukee. “I have worked to secure the funding needed to remove all of Milwaukee’s lead pipes, which pose a threat to our children,” Moore said. “The infrastructure bill includes funds that will help remove the 70,000 lead pipes in Milwaukee.”

But Republican Rep. Scott Fitzgerald voted no because the package “spends only a fraction of funds on fixing roads, bridges and major projects that the American people generally consider infrastructure.”

Democrats “need to reign in their out-of-control spending,” Fitzgerald added. “The American people cannot afford the debt of their socialist agenda.”

Republican Rep. Bryan Steil explained his no vote: “We should be making investments in our nation’s infrastructure, but through a smart, targeted approach that is focused on real infrastructure. Unfortunately, this bill is not paid for, will fund Green New Deal subsidies, and only directs a small portion of spending towards improving our roads and bridges.”

Oh, and one other part of the funding: if you’re one of the 16,000 Wisconsin drivers who hit a deer last year, the infrastructure package includes $350 million through 2026 to fund new ways to decrease the number of wildlife/vehicle crashes nationwide.

Bambi must be part of our infrastructure.

Steven Walters started covering the Capitol in 1988. Contact him at stevenscotwalters@gmail.com

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More about the Lead Crisis

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