Thursday, February 7, 2019

Big-spending GOP legislative-special interest complex wants WI toll roads

Big spending, concrete-loving Wisconsin Republican legislators
Robin Vos speaks at Racine Tea Party event (8378614585).jpg
are uniting around a plan to bring toll roads to Wisconsin.

I cannot imagine leaving such an important matter to a group with more flaws, failures and flat-out contradictions.

And setting aside the insanity of letting the same fake conservatives who over-borrowed for major highway projects during the Walker years in the face of insufficient revenues, I want to again point to this central fact: - -   
Walker motion in 2003 tripped off SE highway overspending
- - to memorialize other truths and connections at this critical moment.

And to ask why some of the same people who were hell-bent on spending more and more of your money are still today in or around what was an unsustainable situation I described in 2009 - - 
Freeway Financing Shell Game Exposed
- - and updated in 2015, above:
Walker motion in 2003 tripped off SE highway overspending
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.
* For the record, several of the major highway projects which are straining taxpayers and budgets make up the partially-completed, $6 billion+ Southeast Wisconsin Regional Freeway [Sic] System reconstruction and expansion package recommended by a seven-county regional planning committee.

* One of those segments, fast-tracked recently with scarce transportation funding, is the North-South I-94 project in the Racine County'Foxconn project area championed by newly-minted tollroad backer Robin Vos. 

* One of Foxconn's lead boosters is Tim Sheehy, President of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce,

* The projected bill for the entire SE 'freeway' plan got run up by about 12%, or $750 million, with the addition of a contentious extra 19 lane miles through the City of Milwaukee recommended on the motion of then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, with the support of the MMAC's Sheehy.

I know all this and made a written record of if several times over the years because I was at the meeting - - minutes and full committee report, here, from which I have excerpted these highlights:
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... 
Mr. Sheehy stated that based upon feedback from the membership of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) and from the MMAC Infrastructure Task Force, he would be supporting the amendment put forth by Mr. Walker. Mr. Sheehy stated that it made more sense to plan for broad options, with the benefits and costs of those options being further addressed, and the final decisions made, after preliminary engineering and environmental assessment studies... 
Mayor Norquist stated that he was opposed to the amendment put forth by Mr. Walker...He added that the amount of Federal highway dollars allocated to Wisconsin are fixed, and that the only way to fund this recommended plan is by reaching into taxpayer pockets and increasing taxes... 
Chairman Drew asked if there were any additional comments or questions on the amendment put forth by Mr. Walker, seconded by Mr. White, to include the provision of additional capacity on 127 miles of the regional freeway system. Mr. Dwyer suggested a roll call vote. Mr. Walker’s motion to amend the final plan to include the provision of additional capacity on 127 miles of the regional freeway system, seconded by Mr. White, passed on a vote of 14 ayes to 9 nays, with Messrs. Buestrin, Cook, Drew, Dwyer, Finley, Melvin, Miller, Norem, Sheehy, Speaker, Walker, White, Wirth, and Ms. Jacobson voting in favor of the amendment. Messrs. Fafard [representing WisDOT], Holloway, Kehl, Leonard, Millonzi, Norquist, Pratt and Ms. Estness and Ms. McCutcheon [representing the WI DNR] voted against the amendment. Mr. Matzke abstained from the vote... 
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.
One more thing about toll roads: 

I remind everyone that toll roads often lead to lucrative private sector management contracting, which leads to full privatization with negative consequences for taxpayers.

So mull this section of a post I wrote one year ago tomorrow:
WI toll roads? Costly, and no quick fix
Having overspent on excessive projects, borrowed to the hilt and refused to repair the roads and bridges we have, of course Walker and his road-builder obeisant legislative crew would talk up their new love: toll roads.

Walker is tying his trial balloon interest in tolls 
to matching tax reductions elsewhere - - thus keeping his calculated distance, because, hey, he's running for re-election and saying, basically, 'don't put that Illinois toll road stink on me' - -  thus signaling support for further shrinking the public sector and boosting service privatization that will make his donors even happier.

But don't think for a minute that tolling is any kind of statewide transportation panacea.

For one thing, the state is dangling this theoretical collection of road tolls in front of federal officials who may be looking to OK projects that include big state  taxpayer contributions under Trump's fake federal infrastructure 'plan.'  

You can bet that any new federal money coming to Wisconsin for road purposes would underwrite some or all of what the state is borrowing to pay for Foxconn-related road construction at the already-heavily-subsidized Foxconn site.

How does that get your potholes filled, your local and arterial streets repaved, and the nearby bridge repaired to a reasonable safety standard?

And don't think that even a quick approval of tolling would do anything but allow the ruling GOP to pose as problem-solvers at election time after years of willful, self-serving procrastination.

A study the state commissioned on tolling found that there are huge up front costs and delays built into joining Illinois and other toll collecting states: 
Any plan for toll roads would take at least four years to implement, the study found. It estimates upfront capital costs for tolling Wisconsin’s interstates would range between $350 million and $400 million.
And for every highway segment tolled, expect nearby local roads to absorb increased traffic avoiding the pay-as-you-drive electronic charges, thus congesting and wearing out those routes even faster. 

Who will pay for those resulting repairs? 

And don't forget that tolling entices privatization, which led to a debacle in Indiana, and separately, to higher Skyway tolls and parking fees in Chicago.

And does anyone think the local-control haters running state government these days would fairly bring cities, villages, towns and counties into the tolling revenue streams, or consider tolling's distorted impacts on low-income motorists?

The budget-breaking/never-ending cycle of ignore-build-ignore-repair-expand-repair-ignore some more will not end until the state frees itself from the clutches of self-interested road-building combines and gets serious about investments in a fix-it-first philosophy no different than putting a new roof on your house before adding an addition..

And commits to congestion's best friend - - modern, accessible transit - - which provides options for a rapidly-aging, driving-avoiding population.

All of which requires a completely different type of governance that is dedicated to public, not special interest service.

We'll only get get more of what we have, but at higher social and fiscal costs along with a wider, deeper donor trough, if we leave the mess to Walker, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, and GOP Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald whose permanent, one-dimensional political careers have been funded by road-builders and related special interests. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They couldn't get this passed under Walker. Why would they be able to pass it under Evers?