2/16/19 – Wisconsin State Journal
I had the privilege of representing Wisconsin’s engineering industry on the Transportation Task Force implemented by Gov. Tony Evers. Being expected to deliver a state budget in less than two months of being sworn into office, the governor was wise to ask a broad range of stakeholders to provide an expert review of the state’s current road and infrastructure conditions.
The taxpayers of Wisconsin have now seen three administrations create multiple task forces, hold numerous public meetings and listening sessions, and conduct legislative audits and hearings. After this latest task force, the same conclusions have been revealed: We do not have enough revenue to provide Wisconsin residents and businesses the transportation system they deserve — not even enough to adequately maintain it. We can no longer ignore the results every time we go through this process.
While the state Department of Transportation should be commended for digging deep to find efficiencies, the reality is that our state’s transportation system is in worse condition today, and our ability to maintain mobility and safety while fostering economic growth has fallen grossly behind. The state’s transportation needs are much bigger than even five years ago. And with the current funding structures in place, we will fall further and further behind.
Wisconsin’s gas tax and vehicle registration fees make up 91 percent of all state funds for transportation. Many believe all of that money goes to maintaining our roads. But from that revenue, 21 percent is used immediately to repay debt. The remaining funds not only pay for state and local roads and bridges, but also transit, airports, harbors, bike and pedestrian facilities, passenger rail, freight rail lines, railroad crossings, the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles and the Wisconsin State Patrol.
While a gas tax increase could be a short-term solution for a long-term problem, the state needs an immediate influx of revenue to address current road conditions. The residents of Wisconsin who drive our roads every day see this need, which is why over 700 local resolutions have passed supporting a solution.
With the findings from this task force, combined with the willingness to compromise and to think creatively on the part of our state’s leaders, we can set forth on a long-term solution that truly moves the state forward.