Walker says ‘yes’ to roads we don’t need

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

From a column by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

Whether it’s a result of recent bad winters or just the impact of more and more traffic, local roads and streets have taken a serious beating throughout Wisconsin.

Potholes, sunken manhole covers and deteriorating concrete and asphalt are taking their toll on cars and the nerves of the people who ride in them. Many communities and counties have fallen behind on road maintenance in recent years because of budget shortfalls.

But we’ll just have to learn to live with the disintegrating roads and streets thanks to yet another curious set of priorities on the part of the Scott Walker administration.

The new Wisconsin budget, which is headed full speed to implementation, includes massive cuts to Wisconsin schools, fewer dollars for the working poor, more tax breaks for big business and, yes, less money to help the state’s already-beleaguered municipalities fix streets and roads. (Madison is on the verge of losing $1 million.)

Instead, the budget that’s being fashioned by the Walkerite-dominated Joint Committee on Finance will effectively shift transportation dollars away from the locals and into the hands of the big road builders who gave so generously to get Walker elected.

While local road aid is headed for what looks like a $35 million cut, some $328 million more is being earmarked for new highway construction by shifting automobile sales tax revenue, which has historically gone to the general fund, into the transportation budget. Further, more dollars for big highways are being freed up by shifting public transit out of the transportation budget and into the general fund, where public transportation will be more vulnerable to indiscriminate budget cutting.