Just Fix It Wisconsin

Racine Journal Times editorial: Time to do what’s needed for state’s existing roads 6/14/2016

6/14/2016, Racine Journal Times – Wisconsin has the fourth-worst roads in the nation, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation study released earlier this year, with 71 percent of them in poor or mediocre condition. Most of the states in this nation don’t deal with the road-damaging winters we do, either.

Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature need to look seriously at doing more maintenance and upkeep of our existing roads, as they are a more pressing need than highway expansion.

The governor recently told reporters he won’t increase transportation taxes or fees without a corresponding tax decrease somewhere else in the state budget, reiterating a position he has held throughout his time in office, the Capital Times reported.

“We’ll make sure, as we do with our other agencies, that the Department of Transportation budget that comes out this fall in September will reflect that, and we’ll try to figure out ways that we can be efficient and effective in providing local assistance to keep our county and municipal roads and highways and streets in decent shape,” Walker said June 2.

While it’s politically safe to insist, with regard to our roads, on no new taxes or fees without offsetting cuts elsewhere, where does the governor propose cutting? Education? Funds to cities and counties? We think there’s been sufficient slashing in those two areas in the past five years.

Peter Skopec, director of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, in an interview broadcast on WKOW-TV’s “Capital City Sunday” on June 5, said Walker’s decision could force the state to examine how it prioritizes transportation spending.

“Over the last 20 years we have seen huge increases in the amount of money going into highway expansion — adding lanes to highways, building new highways,” he said. “And that’s come at the expense of paying for maintenance of existing roads, existing highways, our bridges. That’s how we end up with a transportation system that is really in disrepair all across the state.”

Also, funding for Wisconsin’s transportation system through taxes on gasoline has slowed as cars have become more fuel-efficient. In other words, the old method of road funding no longer works.

In Wisconsin and nationally, we’ve seen bipartisan neglect of infrastructure, as it’s a topic which doesn’t grab headlines or generate sound bites on the nightly newscasts. It’s time for our legislators and other elected officials to stand up for infrastructure. It’s the foundation on which our economic house is built.

We need to improve our existing roads, and if it requires raising taxes or fees, so be it.

No one likes to see their taxes go up, but reasonable people recognize when the government has to spend more to deliver required services. Especially something as important to Wisconsin’s economy as its roads.