Just Fix It Wisconsin

Valders Journal Editorial: State needs strong road funding plans 1/5/2017

1/5/2017, Valders Journal – Gov. Scott Walker’s refusal to raise gas taxes or vehicle registration fees and the Legislature’s insistence that all funding choices be considered have Wisconsin residents caught squarely in the middle.

Wisconsin has run its road budget way too tight in recent years, and funding is badly needed for local communities and bigger road projects. But the money won’t materialize from nowhere.

Walker has stood firm against raising transportation taxes and fees, and his desire to stay loyal to his promise is admirable. But it’s no longer practical. Cutting local funding is destroying county highways and town roads and riving up property taxes as boards borrow money.

Transferring money from other funds is NOT an answer. Does anybody remember former Gov. Jim Doyle’s infamous raid on the transportation fund?

Transportation funding is poised to be a hot issue as the Legislature gets back into session. Lawmakers are facing a $1 billion shortfall in the fund, and Walker’s solution is to delay projects and fall back on borrowing.

That’s setting up a fight within the Republican Party, even before the issue gets to the Democrats. The GOP needs to compromise so the state does not go any further into debt, the roads are maintained and the local goverments get the money they need.

The Legislature has mentioned tolls on Interstate highways, something that makes anybody who’s been through Illinois or Indiana or Florida shudder. And nobody really wants the gas tax to go up, but removal of an automatic indexing increase several years ago also helped deplete road funding.

Something has to break here, and it might mean that Walker will have to backtrack on his steadfast promise, but he’d have a good reason if a fiar increase in either the vehicle fees or gas tax, or both, can be devised.

Borrowing won’t work much longer because eventually you have to pay the piper, and projects have been delayed and cut for far too long.

Wisconsin used to be known for its good roads and no tolls. Let’s hope we can get back to that again, even if it pinches a little bit more at the pump or registration time.