Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Walker Shell Game To Reduce Sewer Improvements Irks Contractors

Scott Walker's plan to trim, slow down or block sewer improvement projects that clean our waters by  - - I wrote about it here - - has upset a contractor organization that I'm told has many Walker backers.

And has begun speaking truth to power .

Walker had advocated separating storm and sanitary sewer systems - - the combined arrangement can lead to overflows during storms- - and contractors backed Walker believing that the separated-systems' position would lead to work for their members.

Now they understand what Walker has in mind; a political shell game where Walker and majority Republicans in the legislature look good for cutting state spending while forcing local governments and taxpayers' to pick up more of these expensive projects' funding; in a tight economy, on top of state spending limits laid down on local governments, many of these vital public health projects will never see the light of the day.

Here is the group's May 11th letter of protest by email to State Rep. Robin Vos, R-Burlington), co-chair of Joint Finance and back of the Walker plan:

Dear Rep. Vos,
We met in the past at Wanasek Corporation in Burlington. Our association represents various water, sewer, tunnel, and gas distribution contractors, suppliers, and service-oriented firms. You can find us on the Internet at
We wanted to respond to a vote by the state Joint Finance Committee to reduce state subsidy for the Clean Water and Drinking Water Fund Loan Programs as reported in various newspapers May 8, 2011.

A state reduction in loan subsidy will hurt municipalities, contractors, equipment suppliers, and small business as follows:
  • The lower subsidy will cause municipalities to reconsider or delay important infrastructure projects as they try to locate funding elsewhere. During this recessionary period, any delay in water & sewer projects by a municipality will delay employment of trades-people during our short Wisconsin construction season.
  • There are public health issues that require municipal utilities to make improvements to sewer and water projects now. We all remember the July 2010 rains that caused massive flooding and basement backups in southeast Wisconsin. Municipalities are trying to make infrastructure improvements to deal with the flooding problems but now their projects will cost more.
  • Because the housing industry is in a depression, that market opportunity has been lost to contractors and suppliers for nearly three years.  Without new subdivision development there is no need for water, sewer, and paving construction. Many contractors bid municipal work because there is no work in the housing sector. A reduction in state loan subsidy to municipal utilities only magnifies the problem.
  • If contractors are not working their equipment and material suppliers are not providing goods and services. There is a domino effect with construction delays.
  • Over the past 30 years, municipal utilities have benefited by the very successful state revolving loan programs that actually returns money to state coffers. It is so popular that many municipalities are on a waiting list for the subsidy. It would be a real shame to lower the state subsidy when this is a popular and needed state loan program.
Please reconsider the reduction is state subsidy to municipal utilities as many people view the loan programs as necessary for public health & safety and job creation. Because of the success of the program with its high demand and generator of jobs, many would argue that the state subsidy should be actually increased versus reduced.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
Richard W. Wanta
WUCA Executive Director
2835 N. Mayfair Road, Suite 22
Milwaukee, WI 53222-4483
Tel:  414-778-1050
Fax: 414-778-0647


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