$939 Million Short... But No Plan to Raise Revenue or Change Tactics

Photo by  Doug Kerr

Photo by Doug Kerr

Wisconsin has struggled with transportation funding issues for many years, yet the state government continues to prioritize big highway expansion projects and extensive road funding. Unsurprisingly, this has led to a major budget shortfall: $939 million to be exact. And that's just to maintain the current level of funding.

Republican Governor Scott Walker holds firm on a stance of not raising revenue and instead, hopes to find other areas from which to cut spending. The Capital Times recently covered this story and Walker's response:

"Raising taxes and fees is not the answer," Walker said in a statement Wednesday [...] "Under our administration, we will keep it a priority to live within the means of the hardworking people of Wisconsin. That is a commitment I will honor. Leadership will require us to identify cost savings and prioritize our needs, as I have directed my Department of Transportation secretary to do, especially when it comes to safety and maintenance. I am confident we can do better than placing new taxes on Wisconsin citizens."

According to the Capital Times, Republican State Assemblyman, John Nygren, called the request to "identify nearly $1 billion worth of efficiencies to address the projected shortfall" unrealistic. And it is. 

Let's focus on Walker's statement, "We will keep it a priority to live within [our] means..." Yet this transportation spending plan is the exact opposite of living within the state's means. Living within your means means not going into debt for things you can't afford and will probably never be able to afford. Living within your means means not investing in something unless you really know it's going to pay off. Highway expansion projects and hundreds of millions in bonds is not "living within your means." As Nygren said, it's "basically passing the costs off to our kids."

Other Republican leaders in Wisconsin have also taken a stand against Walker's position on transportation spending. From the Capital Times article: "Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said last month he disagrees "fundamentally" with the governor on transportation funding." Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke has also argued, "While we strive to lower the cost of state government as quickly as we can, we cannot allow that ideology to blind us to reality in cases where a lack of resources will cost taxpayers more in the end."

That's a sliver of awareness about the Growth Ponzi Scheme that funds so much of American infrastructure.

The Capital Times sums up the problem succinctly: "Wisconsin lawmakers have spent years looking for a long-term transportation funding solution, but continue to rely on short-term fixes while borrowing and delaying construction projects." Read the full article here.

(Top photo by rauglothgor)

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