Just Fix It Wisconsin

WISTAX REPORT: As Local Roads Crumble, State Transportation Borrowing ‘No Longer an Option’ 10/12/2016

10/12/2016, Patch.com – A non-partisan tax research organization has investigated the state of Wisconsin’s transportation funding, and the results are getting pretty dire.

Two new reports from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) point to several issues that have been largely overlooked.

WISTAX has found that state funding has been shifted away from the state’s transportation fund, giving rise to high borrowing.

WISTAX has pointed out that state transportation debt costs are at a rate three times of the federal government, and that borrowing is “no longer an option.”

As a result, cities towns and villages are seeing their roads crumble as they delay projects on account of dwindling funding from the state.

In two new reports, WISTAX researchers note that:

  • More than $1.4 billion was shifted from the state’s dedicated transportation fund to the general fund for non-transportation purposes between 2001 and 2011.
  • These transfers, combined with lagging state transportation revenues, led to a surge in transportation bonding since 2001, raising debt service costs from $90.3 million in 2000 to $472 million in 2015.
  • Due to increased borrowing, debt service costs will exceed 22% of transportation fund revenues next year, crowding out state road projects and local aids.
  • With stagnant state aids and tight property tax limits, local governments have delayed some street repairs and maintenance. As a result, local street conditions have declined in recent years.
  • The share of streets rated “excellent” or “very good” by the state Department of Transportation (DOT) dropped from 37% in 2010 to 31% in 2015, while the share rated “fair” or worse rose from 29% to 32% in the same period.
  • Local streets and roads make up the bulk of Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure, 103,000 miles compared to 11,800 miles of state and Interstate highways.

WISTAX President Todd A. Berry noted that the state’s transportation debt costs raise concerns: “At 22% of revenues, Wisconsin’s transportation debt costs are three times of those of the federal government; borrowing is no longer an option.”