Friday, April 14, 2017

Slippery Walker plays politics with state road dollars

You may think this is the Passover and Easter season, but for motorists negotiating Wisconsin's crumbling highways, there's been something of a Festivus miracle.

Right-wing Wisconsin GOP Gov. and perpetual candidate for re-election Scott Walker has found $103 million in general and transportation fund dollars to quickly shove into 21 state highway projects of his choosing as critics left and right were bashing the condition of state roads and Walker's unwillingness to consider new revenue sources to pay for unaffordable bigger projects/road-builder windfalls now stalled.

By discovering a pile of cash he could spend now, Walker has revealed the farce that passes for a state transportation planning and spending process.

Some days there isn't enough money.

Some days there's an instant surplus.

Projects like widening I-94 North-South are deemed immediate, must-have essentials, then can be slowed to a crawl for years by the same politicians and planners who said, 'hurry up - - our studies say the need is now.'

The I-94 East-West widening was also deemed essential. Some iterations call for eight lanes, even with a long bridge more suited to a rural canyon than an urban neighborhood, but maybe it's back to six and no bridge.

Then it's taken off the table because Walker and GOP legislators can't agree on how much money to borrow to look competent enough to get re-elected.

And these big projects do not contain transit components, though an aging population and car-averse millennials prefer transit and walkable neighborhoods close to work and other amenities that have nothing to do with suburban commutes along the I-94 corridors.

Yet those constituencies are not served by the shell game.

Watch it closely when Joint Finance runs the game in budget hearings, the Legislators 'debate' what Republicans will have decided in caucus so Walker and their campaign ads have just the right balance of highway-ribbon cutting photos and fiscal conservatism talking points.


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