Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Highways = More Debt, But Wisconsin Keeps On Spending

The insanity continues.

Wisconsin keeps on spending money on highways it doesn't need and can't afford - - like the $1.9 billion I-94 freeway widening and rebuilding from Milwaukee to Illinois that is not justified by traffic counts - - so the debt the state has just keeps on growing.

Like drug addicts trying to manage their illnesses by switching substances, or finding cheaper dealers, legislators and lobbyists are trying to find the magic formula to get their hands on new billions of dollars while avoiding the inevitable political backlash their schemes - - tolls, higher fees, new taxes, fresh borrowings - - will provoke.

I'm waiting for one bold politician to stand up to the highway lobby, and on behalf of our heavily-taxed populace say there will be a moratorium on new major road projects.

And that every project on the books will be reexamined, by outside accountants and experts if need be, to sort out what is needed and affordable.

Federal stimulus financing in the hundreds of millions of one-time aid has kept some projects afloat, but like the one-time tobacco settlement that the state blew a few years ago, the stimulus money will come and go.

But the state's debt burden will not.

So let's start by saying:

1. Every small town in Wisconsin the size of Mineral Point does not need a broad multi-million-dollar bypass.

2. Pabst Farms does not need that absurd $25 million full-diamond interchange to serve a glorified strip mall and a few new Homes 'R Us big boxes - - none of which may ever be built.

3. I-43 south through Walworth County does need to be widened to six lanes.

The most hypocritical of the state's binge spenders on concrete are so-called conservatives in the legislature.

They talk a good game about cutting taxes and trimming spending, but when it comes to the state highway budget, they work hand-in-glove with lobbyists and contractors to ship more tax money for roads in and near their districts.

Remember Assembly Majority Leader John Gard, (R-Peshtigo)? Big-time conservative - - except when it came to his pet project, the widening of State Highway 41 through his rural northeastern state district, which he demanded be put in the state budget.

Same for State Senator Ted Kanavas, (R-Brookfield). Huge, outspoken fiscal conservative - - except for his pet project, the hurried widening and rebuilding of the Zoo Interchange, which is going to break the bank at $2.3 billion.

If these legislators were serious about fiscal discipline, they would turn off the spigot and inject sanity into a state budget process that is splashing more and more red ink onto future generations because no one has the courage and common sense to say "no" to the concrete lobby.


Silent E said...

So does this mean you're also against the multi-billion dollar train that nobody will ride?

James Rowen said...

To Silent E: There are several train proposals out there.

SocratesChildren said...

Yes, about rail. I do believe rail will get enormous scrutiny from the road lobby, whenever a rail project is suggested. Scrutiny is part of a proper democratic process. I personally believe rail will stand up very well as long-term less expensive, more efficient, and as a low calorie consumer of oil. The problem with rail is that it is usually defeated only by simplistic slogans, even as it massively succeeds everywhere else in the world. Bring on the green shades; let's look at both rail and roads.