Just Fix It Wisconsin

FRIDAY FINISHERS:DOT budget snubs southeast Wisconsin 9/16/2016

9/16/2016, Racine Journal Times – Thanks a bunch, governor. Gov. Scott Walker’s Department of Transportation released its two-year budget plan Thursday and southeastern Wisconsin — and Racine County — drew the short straw. The plan calls for at least a two-year delay on reconstruction work on Interstate 94 between Milwaukee and the Illinois state line as the DOT and the governor trim $447 million from state highway programs in an effort to avoid any increases in the state gas tax or vehicle registration fees. The package would boost maintenance spending by $69.7 million and give local governments an additional $65 million for their roads. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the governor’s plan for maintenance spending was like putting a new roof on a house that has been condemned.

Congratulations, you got a raise! Or at least most of Americans did. The U.S. Census Bureau reported this week that U.S. household’s income rose 5.2 percent in 2015 to an inflation-adjusted level of $56,516. It was the largest one-year gain on data stretching back to 1967. Wisconsin did even better, posting a 5.6 percent gain, although the median income was a little lower at $55,638. The income growth was reportedly fueled by higher minimum wages in many states and tougher competition for businesses to fill jobs — while inflation remained in check. The poorest Americans saw the largest increase, the report said. Still, it’s not exactly time to bring out the party hats, since the gains came after years of little or no wage growth.

While things may be better in employment land, they’re not so good down on the farm. Good weather produced bumper crops in both corn and soybeans this year and the Midwest and U.S. corn crop is expected to be the biggest ever. That may be good for consumers, but if the glut means depressed prices for farmers and it comes after two consecutive years in which they will spend more on the crops than they earn. According to news reports, corn and soybean prices reached record highs in 2012, but have dropped 42 percent since then. That will likely lead to more borrowing to keep farm operations going.

The transition for high schoolers going on to college can be daunting — but it shouldn’t be this daunting. Social media was going viral this week with the tale of a UCLA freshman named Ashly who sent her two prospective roommates — as yet unmet — a no-holds-barred email of what she expected in their new accommodations after they didn’t reply to her earlier email. “I’m not going to settle for anything less than what I’m going to tell you that I’m gonna get once I arrive in the dorm,” she wrote. Her list of demands included a top bunk, but not the one over a desk, one of two white closets and the desk near the window. “I won’t be in the mood for any arguing or other nonsense,” she wrote. In a more conciliatory follow-up email, Ashly wrote, “As you can see from my previous email, I am like a ticking time bomb that sets off when things I don’t like happen to me.”

She said she would move out and look for a different dorm if they wanted her to. Either that or maybe contract for a reality TV show. There was no last word on whether the three roomies stuck it out together — or who got the desk by the window. Gonna be a lot of educating going on at UCLA.

The development of driverless cars is all the rage these daysso it probably shouldn’t have come as that big of a surprise that Case IH has been working on a driverless tractor that was recently showcased at a Farm Progress Show in Boone, Ill.

The cabless tractor can operate with a variety of implements and the on-board system accounts for implement widths and plots the most efficient paths with supervision from a remote operator. Visitors to the farm show were taking videos and selfies of the prototype, company officials said, adding it’s only a matter of time before it goes into production. It’s good to see Case IH on the cutting edge — and tilling, planting and spraying edge — of technology.