10/2/18 – Appleton Post-Crescent
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers said he would make fixing roads a priority when he spoke Tuesday at a forum hosted by the Transportation Development Association.
The forum, held at the D.J. Bordini Center of Fox Valley Technical College, invited several state officials and a number of candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot to talk about their plans for transportation and infrastructure.
“We’re going to stop kicking the can down the road when I’m governor,” Evers said at the forum.
He blamed Gov. Scott Walker’s policies on transportation and infrastructure for crumbling roads, downgraded bridges and struggling mass transit.
“Scott Walker’s approach to transportation frankly has had significant impact in the state of Wisconsin,” Evers said.
Walker was invited, but did not attend Tuesday’s forum.
Evers previously stated he would consider an increase in gas taxes, but hasn’t provided any details.
The candidate also released a series of proposed reforms on Monday, dubbed the “government for us” agenda. One of the reforms listed cutting “wasteful spending,” including overpayments on roads projects.
At the forum, Evers called fixing roads a bipartisan issue and said “all reasonable options are on the table” on how to approach it.
“The last thing we need to have … there’s already a preempting of that conversation about whether it’s taxes or not taxes or whatever,” Evers said. “I know this is a Republican and Democratic issue, it’s an issue that unites us, doesn’t divide us except for Scott Walker doing that, and we will change this going forward.”
In a campaign ad, Walker accused Evers of trying to raise gas taxes by as much as $1 per gallon, a claim Evers called “ridiculous.”
Walker recently vowed to increase annual state funding to counties for roads by 50 percent, going from $111 million a year to $168 million.
The governor said he would release his full transportation plan last month, but fell short of his September deadline.
State candidates have their say
Several other state representatives and candidates also shared their plans to improve roads at the forum.
State Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton) said she supports indexing and increasing the gas tax to increase funding for transportation and infrastructure.
Stuck said without strong infrastructure in the state, business attraction looks grim.
“It doesn’t matter how much we want to offer in incentives; if the site is not good, we don’t have good roads, we don’t have good infrastructure, we wont attract jobs here,” Stuck said. “We won’t grow business here, so it is absolutely important that we fix this issue.”
Lee Snodgrass, Democratic candidate for State Senate District 19, said she would make roads a priority if she is elected.
“There is agreement that something needs to be done whether you’re Republican or Democrat or an Independent,” Snodgrass said. “When I talk to people at the doors, that is the one universal issue that people agree on that we need to do something.”
She said there is not enough discussion on how the state should be paying for better roads.
“What I’m seeing is we’re not even having those discussions,” Snodgrass said.
Snodgrass said she’s been attacked for speaking openly about possibly raising taxes for improving roads and it has been used against her in polling.
Matt Lederer, a Democrat running for State Assembly District 5, said the lack of a current plan on fixing roads is not helping the state.
“Bad roads — it’s not just an aesthetic thing, it’s not just a convenience thing, it’s not just a car damage thing,” Lederer said. “Although it is all of those things, it’s a safety thing, and that’s real life consequences for real life people in my district.”
He emphasized better road maintenance to not have to overhaul fixing everything at once.
State Rep. Paul Tittl (R-Manitowoc) raised other concerns about simply raising taxes on gas and how that would affect the state’s tourism industry.
“We need to actually make sure that whatever we do, we make it fair and equitable for both … the citizens of Wisconsin and also our wonderful visitors because we don’t want to harm our tourism business as well,” Tittl said.
Tittl proposed raising vehicle registration fees instead.