Thursday, October 13, 2011

Don't Believe It When You Hear We Need Tolls To Close Road-Funding Shortfall

The road-builders and their friends were massaging the media a little while ago, fretting that Wisconsin didn't have enough money to deal with all the road work we are said to need.

The answer: tolls.

But wait.

Comes the Federal government - - the same entity regularly bashed by Republicans and other small-government (wink, wink) advocates - - telling us via the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that every state in the Union now gets back from the feds more money in highway aid than it sends in through the gas tax.

We got back $1.27 for every dollar sent in fuel taxes to DC, so how, with this surplus, could the state be in a highway-funding shortfall?

That doesn't make us the richest "donee" state, but the data shows us doing better than plenty of other states, including every one of our neighbors, and plenty of their neighbors.

This chart shows the amount of Federal-Aid Highway money given to each state per dollar contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund for fiscal years 2005-2009. Image: GAO
Could it be that the scale of road-building in progress, and on the books in Wisconsin is grandiose and unsustainable?

That we don't know how to budget, plan, spend wisely?

In Wisconsin, regardless of party, though we starve transit for ideological reasons, we do loves us our highways. 

The SE freeway reconstruction and expansion is a $6.4 billion program. There's another billion in the works for another lane on I-39/90 from Illinois to Madison and perhaps all the way to the Dells.

The big-design, full Hoan Bridge replacement is set at perhaps $350 million. And there are countless new road projects being cooked up at the DOT, as local streets decay and bus systems wither.

We don't need tolls. That will only keep the beast fed - - no, overfed.

We need a genuine balance between roads and transit - - something we do not even approach - - and we need fiscal conservatism when it comes to the state's road-building binge - - something the conservatives [sic] running the show in Madison forget when the road-builders are involved and the lobbyists come a-callin'.


enoughalready said...

This reads like an opinion piece (or a letter) one might read in the local newspaper. Have you considered submitting it? I hope you do, as I think the public needs to hear this point of view.

nonquixote said...

The road builders are just hoping to expand and eventually shift into easier money. First get billions in tax money to build the them. Get the Republican legislators to claim we cannot afford to maintain them anymore, (as in federal rail expansion grant funding denial), so the next logical step (for smaller government) is to sell the toll collection franchise to an arm of the road builder brotherhood, at bargain basement prices, who will then take the tolls, refuse to maintain anything and shortly dump it back on the public to come up with new public funding to rebuild the worn out system. Perpetual income stream, easy-peasy.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that our Legislature abolished automatic adjustments to the gas tax for inflation. And because no legislator would dare do anything as un-American as vote to raise taxes, the gas tax level has been stuck for several years, while road costs have gone up. So -- surprise -- we have a structural deficit in transportation funding.

John Casper said...

Excellent post. Learned a lot. Thanks.

Paul Trotter said...

What was that Walker said about the hidden costs of high speed rail? The same could be said for the billions he's spending on new roads. And what do roads get us - pot holes, gas stations and strip malls.

Great post!