Initial Thoughts On The Governor's Budget Speech
Some things jump out at me in the first accounts of the Governor's budget speech:
* No cut to shared revenue. Every local taxpayer should turn a cartwheel.
* The proposed capital gains and high-earner tax increases are reasonable. Another bump in the cigarette tax will help drive down usage, so there's an additional benefit.
Expect an uproar from the GOP and their megaphones on talk radio, but most or of those increases are going to happen.
* Delaying the Zoo Interchange is a good step. It should never have been moved to the faster-track schedule that had it over-lapping with the I-94 North/South leg from Milwaukee to the Illinois state line.
While engineering study continues, a premium has to be placed on design simplicity and property retention, and a basic repaving with minimal improvements would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
* Another $200 million could have been shaved off the North/South project by eliminating its new, fourth lane, as studies show it will relieve only imaginary congestion, but Gov. Doyle is betting the farm and $97 million in early stimulus funding on that project, and there seems to be no turning him from it.
* Authorization for regional transpotation authorities to save and expand transit in SE Wisconsin, The Fox Valley and Madison, in Dane County, are good institutional steps that could eventually support commuter train service, but the half-cent sales tax authorizations accompanying the enabling law that require county approvals may not happen, so transit may remain in its desultory position statewide for some time to come.
Milwaukee County's bus system is running out of time, as Scott Walker, the Executive, is only too willing to preside over the system's death spiral.
Direct state aid or a takeover may be needed, or Milwaukee County may be forced to further trim an already ailing system, raise fares to unsustainable levels, or shut it down altogether.
There is a 1% cut to Shared Revenue, but it's distributed in an equalizing manner.
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