Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Nothing matches Walker's flips on federal matching $$

As he campaigns both for re-election and more highway money from the feds that could come with mandated, bigger state matches, let's go through Walker's two-faced relationship with these issues and underline his transparent maxim, "I didn't say 'never' on match."

We begin with Walker's trip to the White House Monday where he was looking out for his Foxconn-centric re-election campaign and also looking for a helping of pork from Trump's so-called federal infrastructure 'plan.' 
Gov. Walker is pushing for more funding to finish the I-94 corridor project from the state line to Milwaukee County, including the freeway section that passes the new Foxconn facility.
Much of the news about Trump's infrastructure 'plan 'noted that it relies relies on big dollops of state and local matching funds which state and local governments don't have:
100 billion in matching funds to be made available to states and cities on new, less-generous terms...Right now, federally funded highways (that’s interstates and other routes) are financed on the basis of an 80-20 federal-state split... 
Trump’s proposal is to flip the 80-20 formula on its head and require that states and cities kick in at least $4 for every $1 in federal money they receive...The practical impact of making the matching formula stingier will be to generate fewer new gleaming roads, not more.
No problem in Wisconsin, say Walker, and GOP legislators who know just where to find those matching millions
Wisconsin should use tolls to get matching money for Trump's infrastructure plan, top lawmakers say
About which Walker made perfectly clear he stands on both sides of the issue: 
He said he would go along with implementing tolling or raising the gas tax if other taxes were cut by an equivalent or greater amount.  
"To be perfectly clear, I am not in any way suggesting support for tolling today," Walker told reporters. "I am not taking it off the table permanently, but I want to make it clear just because someone brought it up doesn’t mean I’m proposing it."
Walker wants you to think he's against federal matching fund proposals because they obligate the locals to pay up front and keep paying down the line.

He wants you to believe he won't grab those 'free' (sneer) federal dollars, but it's perfectly clear that the only consistent position he'll take is whatever suits him at the moment.

*  For example, remember that Walker kept a key 2010 campaign promise and triumphantly turned back $810 million in federal funding won by Gov. Jim Doyle from the Obama stimulus program for an Amtrak extension to Madison from Milwaukee.

Walker said he had to do that because even though the feds were going to pay for all the rail, and bridges and stations, the state could not afford an annual share of the system's operating cost of $7.5 million a year - - even though the state Department of Transportation said the projected state share for operations was one-tenth of that, or $750,000, as the Journal Sentinel reported.

But then - - D'oh! - - Walker remembered the Amtrak funding he'd just flushed included important improvements to the existing Amtrak service between Milwaukee and Chicago.

And that his backers in the Milwaukee business community were counting on that piece of the funding because lots of lawyers and stock brokers and Milwaukee business people regularly commute to Chicago on the train.

So in an irony-rich-but-failed effort, Walker with a straight face went back to the same Obama administration he'd been trashing for a year and asked, pretty-please, if he could have back just $150 million of those Amtrak dollars to keep the Milwaukee business community happy.

To which the feds said, no. And those dollars have been reallocated to more reliable state partners.

*  And if we're being fair and giving Walker his due about federal infrastructure and/or matching funds about which it's perfectly clear he has been for, and against - - even on the same day - - let's dial up his specific antipathy to matching funds for infrastructure projects about which Walker opposed...and then stood for...with plenty of wiggle room to spare:

From a 2015 summary post with references back to 2009:
Walker flip pattern presaged in 'no-yes-maybe' on stimulus $
When Walker was Milwaukee County Executive, and eyeing the Wisconsin Governor's Mansion, it was fashionable for Republican pols and their allies in the talk radio echo chamber to bash newly-elected President Barack Obama by trashing his stimulus program - - and by extension, federal spending and Big Government.

Walker, on cue, went on the record in January, 2009 and said he would not ask for any federal stimulus dollars and upped his boast as County Executive by saying he'd decline any new federal funding, period, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported:
The only federal economic stimuli Walker endorses are tax cuts, and he credited President-elect Barack Obama for recommending $300 billion in such cuts as part of a much larger stimulus plan.  
Walker said federal aid for ongoing state or local operations would only put off the day of reckoning for unbalanced budgets.  
Though he doesn't categorically reject the idea of federal money going for local infrastructure projects, Walker said he won't ask the federal government for anything. 
"All we are asking for is 'do no harm,' " the county executive said. "I'm not asking for any new projects or things to be done here."
Then came the double-talk and the flop, because, lo-and-behold, it became known that Walker's departments had already applied for and received tens of millions of dollars in stimulus and other federal funding.


So Walker said he meant he wouldn't take any stimulus funding which required a local, county match - - but then pulled that back before the ink had dried on that fine print:

Walker said his ban on funding that required a local match wasn't absolute. 
"I didn't say 'never' on match," he said.
For the record, noted on this blog at the time:

Walker's Flip-Flops On Stimulus Funds Are Gold-Medal Worthy 

The [Milwaukee County] board voted on Tuesday, 16-2, to override Walker's veto of a county policy to apply for federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 
Hours after the board overrode his veto, Walker released a list of $130 million in stimulus projects applied for or received by his department heads. Walker said his initiatives were begun prior to the county board's resolution on stimulus funds and reflect those projects that meet his criteria to protect the county taxpayers:
  • No matching funds required by Milwaukee County.
  • No long-term federally mandated financial commitments required.
  • Expenditure of requested funds will not obligate Milwaukee County to new operating or maintenance expenses.
But wait: there's more: 
In a Milwaukee Biz Blog last week, Walker repeated his stance that he would not apply for federal stimulus funds that required a local match of funds: 
"At the start of the year, I laid out clear criteria for any application for federal 'stimulus' funds: No matching funds required by Milwaukee County. Most federal grants require a 20 percent (or greater) match from the local government. 'Free money' sounds nice until you read the fine print and realize local taxpayers could be required to provide a match, which they cannot afford... 
However, in a story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Walker said his ban on seeking stimulus projects that required matching dollars was not absolute. 
"I didn't say 'never' on match," Walker said.
And that's how and why Walker could be lobbying the White House now that Obama is gone for infrastructure money which will require a match larger than what has been standard for years, and why Wisconsin Republicans would have no problem with raising the gas tax or installing tolling to come up with the money.

For hypocrisy and double-talking, Walker & Co. have are no matches.

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