Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Walker pledges restraint on unfunded road-building he long championed

Mindful that he is auditioning before #NeverTrump Republicans as they work to snatch the party's presidential nomination from a golf course and fake university developer who has the most delegates, the early campaign flameout and debt-ridden Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is burnishing his situational conservative financial bona fides by declaring he will not support any transportation tax or fee increase to repair Wisconsin roads which he has allowed to crumble their way near the bottom of the national pothole and infrastructure decrepitude ranking.

Though the Wisconsin road and bridge crisis which Walker has dumped on his state's residents - - one among several crises he has inflicted, including a water quality and environmental crisis and a public education funding crisis, among others - - is the direct result years of willful overspending which Walker directed into major road expansion in Southeastern Wisconsin to please his base - - politically-interlinked road-builders, GOP legislators and suburban commuting constituents - - while also having blocked Amtrak expansion, light rail and other transit alternatives at the expense of urban businesses, universities, tourists and taxpayers.

So while Walker is freshly posing as a fiscal conservative, let's make sure that everyone understands that it was Walker who championed as Milwaukee County Executive the largest and most expensive option among multi-billion SE WI highway reconstruction and expansion unfunded plans.

His move cemented the inclusion of 19 additional lanes at an additional estimated cost of $750 million and 127 miles - - with bigger ramps and other bells and whistles to the SE Wisconsin highway system - - that will end up costing the taxpayers more than $6 billion.

The record shows that it was Walker who made the motion to recommend the Wisconsin Department of Transportation move forward with that maximum expansion - - as I witnessed - - previously reported more than once, and provide below a 2015 account, here:


The Wisconsin Legislature is grappling with a state highway budget unsustainably bloated by reckless borrowing and overspending on the so-called SE 'free'way system - - a problem that has helped stall the entire state budget process while preposterous presidential hopeful Scott Walker keeps skipping out to campaign from Iowa to New Hampshire and beyond.

So it's important to remember that Walker - - as Milwaukee County Executive - - played a key role in 2003 on a SE regional planning commission advisory committee which voted, without a companion financing plan, to recommend to state highway planners that Wisconsin add to the SE 'freeway' system the maximum number of new lanes among the alternatives considered - - 127 miles of lanes instead of 108 - - in what ultimately became a $6.4 billion package.

Walker's motion added 19 more miles of new lanes and an estimated $750 million to the ultimate price tag and also increased the number of structures and land removed from the tax base.

Though the price tag of the still-incomplete-and-still-unfunded Zoo Interchange has come down from its original projection, other segments of the seven-county system have not begun or may be delayed, further driving up their estimated costs - - all of which are in 2003 dollars.

The regional planning commission - - SEWRPC - - often turns major projects over to advisory committees - - and in this case, the full SEWRPC commission accepted the recommendation and forwarded it to WisDOT, which, in turn, accepted it as the unfolding blueprint for billions in SE WI highway work that continues to be underfunded.

Following the [SEWRPC] vote, The Milwaukee County Board passed a resolution opposing the expansion of the freeway system, per Walker's motion, and Walker vetoed it. 

Fifteen members of the Milwaukee Common Council, nearly its entire membership, sent SEWRPC a letter also opposing the costly expansion and noted Walker's resolution veto.

I attended the [2003 SEWRPC] advisory committee meeting where Walker made his accepted motion for the full lanes' expansion that added 19 miles of construction cost, and I wrote about it for this blog in June, in 2009: at the highlighted link, begin on page 7 of the advisory committee's report for Walker's motion and comments in the minutes, with the final vote at the end of the committee report.

Also for the record: then-Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist, Milwaukee Common Council President Marvin Pratt and several others voted no. 

Call them the taxpayers' true friends, unlike Walker, then-Waukesha County Executive Daniel Finley and others, including private sector special interest representatives.

This are the key sentences from the meeting minutes with regard to motions and votes:

Mr. Walker moved to amend the motion such that the final plan would include the provision of additional capacity on 127 miles of the regional freeway system – specifically, adding to the 108 mile recommendation the widening to eight lanes of IH 94 between the Marquette and Zoo Interchanges and of IH 43 between the Mitchell Interchange and Silver Spring Drive, as proposed in the preliminary recommended plan....
Chairman Drew asked if there was any further discussion or possible amendments to the main motion. There being no further discussion or proposed amendments, Chairman Drew asked for a roll call vote on pages 14-19 of Chapter VII as amended to include the provision of additional capacity on 127 miles of the regional freeway system and to recommend that the WisDOT present to the State Legislature and Governor a financing plan before proceeding to the reconstruction of each freeway segment. On a vote of 15 ayes to 8 nays, pages 14-19 of Chapter VII as amended were approved. Messrs. Buestrin, Cook, Drew, Dwyer, Finley, Kehl, Melvin, Miller, Norem, Sheehy, Speaker, Walker, White, Wirth and Ms. Jacobson voting in favor of pages 14-19 of Chapter VII as amended. Messrs. Fafard, Holloway, Leonard, Millonzi, Norquist, Pratt and Ms. Estness and Ms. McCutcheon voted against pages 14-19 of Chapter VII as amended. Mr. Matzke abstained from the vote. 
From my 2009 blog item: 
Remember when the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission spent $1 million of highway planning money to pencil in all this freeway reconstruction and expansion - - $6.4 billion dollars' worth - - but didn't include a financing recommendation to pay for it?
Not our job, the planners said.
But they sent on to WisDOT, which never met a highway plan it wouldn't share eagerly with their true constituents - - the road-builders - - a plan recommending building 127 miles of new lanes and all sorts of purported safety improvements, wider exits and other gee-whiz concrete amenities.
The SEWRPC advisory committee on this plan even overruled the SEWRPC staff and recommended adding 19 miles of new, controversial lanes in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee, even though the additions forced the demolition of an additional eight businesses and 36 homes.
Tax base? Homes and businesses? All expendable. Collateral damage. Highways first, you know.
The prime mover in this extra dollop of multi-million dollar construction excess, and tax base demolition? 
Milwaukee's County Exec and resident faux fiscal conservative - - Scott Walker. You can read his motion and argument in the meeting minutes, here.

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