Monday, June 1, 2015

About those WI transportation budget 'negotiations'

[Updated from 10:54 a.m.] Don't be surprised if the Joint Committee on Finance eases Walker's heavy use of the credit card and borrowed millions by opting for a bump in the current $75 annual vehicle license renewal fee to keep the Big Road-Building Machine well-oiled.

And also creating a new, punitive extra annual $50 on hybrid and electric cars; annual license renewals (tale that, Madison Prius owners), and possibly eliminating funding for bike and pedestrian trails even though that turns down federal dollars, too.

Hey, Walker did it with Amtrak and Medicaid funding.

And the committee already included barriers to bike, pedestrian and other energy-saving transportation plans for Wisconsin campuses in its savaging of the UW budget.

The extra fee on alternative fuel vehicles would only raise a few million annually, and would only put a tiny dent in WisDOT's projected overspending, but the slap at green vehicle owners might be irresistible to right-wing legislators hoping for something in their stockings on the fireplace this winter when Big Oil sends end-of-the-year checks.

The GOP-led committee could also push back the beginning of the I-39/90 expansion from the IL border to the WI Dells - - a short-term 'fix,' if you will - - but I'd be surprised if the committee took major projects off the table completely, as there are powerful road contractors and lobbyists who won't let that happen.

Update: Steve Hiniker, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, writes a strong op-ed calling for and end to spending on major highway expansion based on flawed traffic projections, and cites a recent Federal court ruling that blocked the use of federal funds for the unjustified expansion of state highway 23.

More about that, here.

Separately, the $200 million palace for WisDOT is full-steam ahead. That ought to tell you something about the state of transportation spending and priorities in the state.

Adding a penny or two to the gas tax - - a painless way to get more money at about $30 million per- added-penny-annually to local governments so they can fix the potholes - - would be hard to get past the ideological minders lurking in the Capitol halls with direct lines to Grover Norquist.


my5cents said...

Walker already decided there would be no increase in fees or gas taxes, so that could be stricken from the budget if it is in there. He told them to borrow the money and they should do what he tells them because he has already made the decision and no one else gets to give any input on it.

Richard Lesiak said...

meanwhile WEDC is waiting for more money to throw away.