Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another Minnesota/Wisconsin Contrast Leaves Bucky At The Curb

You couldn't help but noticing that Minnesota recently was ranked fifth among the states in growth while Wisconsin's jobs' gain languished at 34th.

Here's one reason among many the Minnesota economy is on a faster track than Wisconsin's:

Wisconsin's GOP legislature terminated state regional transit authorities and their planning, further disconnecting Southeastern Wisconsin's urban centers from each other and making it harder for Milwaukee residents without cars to access suburban jobs and housing.

Active conservative hostility to rail in all forms over nearly 20 years has also slowed and fragmented the economy by blockading Milwaukee city and county light rail, federally-constructed Amtrak service to Madison to upgrade a Midwestern link with booming Minnesota (see Walker's "STOP the TRAIN...No Train" campaign), and even a Milwaukee-only streetcar now under siege by Walker, his allies in the Legislature and right-wing advocacy groups:

Last summer, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a measure that barred utility ratepayers from having to bear any costs for the project. 
When nothing changed, attorneys for Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute, a conservative free-market think tank, filed a motion with the PSC asking commissioners to decide the matter.
The right is even willing to sacrifice the growth potential in these projects to score points with talk radio ideologues who use rail to drive up their ratings (and ad revenues)  in the conservative suburbs.

The Journal Sentinel had calculated the years of labor available to thousands of construction workers that would have been part of the $800-million Amtrak extension from Milwaukee to Madison.

Apparently Walker believes that Wisconsin can do without those jobs and the spin-off payroll and development outcomes. 

Train manufacturing, rail line construction and maintenance jobs that were handed to him but tossed aside sure could have put him closer to the 250,000 jobs promise on which he campaigned, and which he is far, far from keeping at the expense of the state work force, data show.

Take a look at what our more growth-minded neighbors to the northwest are close to inaugurating: light rail linking St. Paul to Minneapolis will be completed in June, with these kinds of benefits forfeited here: 
The 11-mile corridor between the two downtowns links Union Depot in St. Paul’s Lowertown to the State Capitol complex, Midway, University of Minnesota and Target Field.  As the region’s second light rail line, the METRO Green Line will connect to the Blue Line (Hiawatha) at Downtown East Station. 
The mid-June opening will allow the line to serve baseball fans attending Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at Target Field in July. 
The opening is nearly six months earlier than required by the Federal Transit Administration, which is funding half the $957 million project. The project is on budget. 
The project created 5,445 construction jobs and $252 million in construction payroll, with workers coming from more than 60 Minnesota counties ranging from the Canadian border to Iowa. The METRO Green Line also created 177 permanent operations and maintenance jobs for downtown St. Paul and has spurred more than $1.7 billion in development along the line.
So for now, this is about as close as Milwaukee will get to rail and jobs. Thank your Republican Legislature and Governor for what's lost:
Light rail project creates thousands of jobs
Wed, 15 May 2013The new Portland-Milwaukie light rail line could create as many as 15,000 jobs in the construction industry.

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