2/10/2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) is right about the transportation budget offered this week by Gov. Scott Walker: It just kicks the can down the road, putting off key decisions and ensuring that future generations will be footing the bill for that mistake.
Yes, there are some reasonable measures in Walker’s proposed budget, such as delaying the expansion of I-94 in Milwaukee between the Zoo and Marquette interchanges. That stretch will need to be widened eventually, but we’re not convinced that it’s an urgent need.
The larger problem is that Walker’s administration continues to fail to come to grips with the state’s overall needs on roads, bridges, transit and rail. Given that many roads are reaching the end of their projected life, that the current gasoline tax and registration fees are unable to keep up with the cost of maintenance and new lanes and that many millennials are changing the way they travel, the state needs a smarter strategy.
When the roof needs fixing, you fix the roof. And sometimes you take another job or somehow bring in more money to fix it. Walker prefers to delay and borrow, a practice that won’t help the roads or the economy that relies on those roads to get people to jobs and products to market.
Walker apparently tossed aside a possible compromise on raising the gas tax that seemed within reach. He undoubtedy hopes that repeating his mantra of no tax hikes will help his re-election campaign next year: “Why in the world would we want to raise taxes?” he said Thursday. But he needs to understand that voters will remember hitting all the potholes on their way to the polling place.
Other Republicans have a clearer view of the challenge and are willing to make some tough choices: “I think it’s definitely possible that we’re going to look at a gas tax, we’re going to look at registration fee increases, we’re going to look at tolling,” Vos said. “It is not responsible for us just to continue to kick the can down the road and put more and more spending on the state’s credit card.”
On this one, Vos has the better argument. Here’s hoping the rest of the Legislature agrees as it takes up the governor’s budget.