Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor. –
James A. Baldwin
I started to ponder roads when I saw this TV report [below] which features a reporter talking to town officials who say many Wisconsin rural roads are going to be torn up and turned into gravel because small governments lack state funding dollars for maintenance. Switching a stretch of road to gravel costs 2/3 less than replacing it with new blacktop road.*
In the brief video you’ll hear that state funding for road repair has been flat for the last 3 years. In truth, it got worse in 2011 when Walker cut funding to local road repair and maintenance by 10%.
Now Walker threatens to cut another $4.3 million in transportation aid to local governments. In fact, he threatens to cut a total of $63.4 for transportation which will slow down some BIG projects such as the biggest road project in our state’s history known as the Zoo Interchange Project in Milwaukee County.
Coincidentally – or intentionally – the reddest of the Republicans were very recently lambasting the UW System for having 12% extra in cash. I would wager the “slush fund” shaming is their excuse to dip into UW money. (Jake said it before I did.)
This video comes to us courtesy of John Peterson at Democurmudgeon.
You can read more about Wisconsin’s sinkhole for cash A.K.A. the “transportation budget” at a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article entitled,
“Scott Walker seeks to slow freeway projects, cut Chicago Amtrak funds”.
Read allll the way to the end of that article for the subtle hints that UW System funds will be raided and that Republicans will swing greater control over UW staff salaries to boot.
Missing from the article is mention that Scott Suder and Robin Vos put their little feet down to say “NO” to gas taxes and auto fees to pay for transportation projects — even though a bipartisan commission said that was a sensible way to go. More on that is at WalworthCountyToday
How spin changes, eh? By keeping savings for contingencies the UW System is hiding a “slush fund” says the GOP “CPA Caucus”.
And Walker’s decision to borrow $1 billion for roads in the coming years is – – ? Well I say it’s highway robbery BECAUSE it only makes sense if it’s part of a plan to make sure Wisconsin gets good and broke for real. If you’ve ever been poor, you know your options can get really limited when you’re REALLY broke.
The state could be “forced to make a tough choice” to dig deeply into the general fund to pay for roads at the expense of public K-12 education [Yes – I can hear readers now sneering “Gee- ya think?” with great sarcasm].
The state could also be forced to give Walker’s wealthy benefactors the gift that keeps on giving (***drumroll please***): toll roads! [ that’s what WPRI has done studies on at least 4 times – studies funded by Reason Foundation which likes public-private partnerships annnnd has none other than David Koch on its board]
To be clear there are some limitations on toll roads. Tolls can only be charged on new lanes of interstate highway. (U.S. Highway 45? I-894? I-94? I-90?USH 10/STH 441 in Calumet and Winnebago counties?)
I’m sure given all of Walker’s networking from Palm Beach to California to Beijing he’ll know people who can help us finance anything at an interest rate attractive to – well — to the lenders themselves! It’ll be a lot like the rent to own biz that’s going to make its way back into our state with Walker’s latest budget: payments are low, you pay forever and it’s your own damn fault you didn’t live within your means so you could own something outright. Dirt poor Americans enjoy fewer choices. Same goes for dirt poor states.
*Do you remember people predicting rural roads would go from blacktop to gravel back in 2011 when Walker’s austerity “Budget Repair Bill” was revealed? I do. Sounded like hyperbole. But back in a 2008 report, 43 percent of Wisconsin’s roads were already rated as being in “less than good” condition.
Interesting continued reading on Walker’s outrageous road spendng can be yours [all yours!] at these fine locations:
Is Governor Walker Spending Billions on Four Roads to Nowhere? 2011, WISPIRG
Sometimes I just can’t believe this. Seriously. Kochs bought out Wisconsin’s politics. They’re pushing for privatized roads with that Reason Fndn. They have a hand in the price at the pump. You probably heard they want to buy out major newspapers. What next? A Koch lease on our sunlight?