Thursday, June 2, 2016

Walker "no taxes" pose on roads would make things even bumpier

In today’s dispatch from the right-wing Bubble World that consumes Wisconsin government these days, our fair Governor apparently thinks the state's crumbling roads can be rebuilt using magic dust as currency.
Gov. Scott Walker told reporters Thursday he would not support hiking taxes or fees to pay for highways unless corresponding cuts are made elsewhere in the state budget. He also said he didn't want to rely too much on borrowing for roads — an idea that his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature already are reluctant to do.

If he sticks by those stances, ongoing projects would likely take longer to complete and planned ones would take longer to get started because collections of gas taxes and registration fees have been stagnant in recent years.

"I'm not going to add to the overall tax burden of the hardworking people of this state, so that's a position I made very clear when I ran and I've reiterated it time and time again so we're not going to add a gas tax or vehicle registration fee in this next budget," Walker told reporters after speaking at a fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund.
Good luck with that, Guv. We already have the 3rd-highest percentage of roads rated as “poor” or “mediocre” in the US, but apparently Scotty wants to shoot for the top!

Oh, and what taxes are going to get cut to make any possible increases “revenue-neutral”, Scotty? You do understand that the General Fund is also massively in deficit with increasing costs looming for next year due to your “scoop and toss” gimmick and similar schemes, right? You do know that money in some form is needed to pay for all these things, right? (oh wait, you do have an insane amount of household and campaign debt, so maybe you don’t get this concept).

What a ridiculous pose to strike, and it shows just how fiscally stupid Walker is, and how stupid his puppetmasters think Wisconsinites are. Under the current budget and related legislation that followed, the Transportation Fund is already borrowing
$675 million to pay for highway projects in Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017, and the General Fund has borrowed another $175 million. To keep at that level of repair (which was already reduced from taking care of all highway needs), it seems likely that the State of Wisconsin would have to borrow at least that much again between 2017-19, and we’d still fall behind even further. And oh yeah, our debt service costs will rise in those years due to the increased borrowing, which means less money will be available for new projects.

Already, some WisGOP legislators are balking at Walker's words. Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos indicated in an article today that he was open to adding revenue to pay for road projects, and Joint Finance Co-Chair John Nygren expressed dismay at Walker's apparent plans to keep on using the credit card to pay for road work.
“We as conservative Republicans don’t believe it’s more fiscally responsible to borrow than to pay for it even if it means an increase in a tax or a fee,” Nygren said. “It’s more of a mindset that paying as you go is a better position.”
Of course, Nygren voted to add $350 million in borrowing last November, but we'll leave that part out of his statement for now. On the flip side, goofballs like Sen. Duey Stroebel are echoing Walker's silliniess about "no new taxes", and wants to better afford the road projects by....paying workers less (I wish I was kidding).

There's another factor to point out with the DOT budget, and that's the effect no new revenues would have on local governments. The current budget figures assume the state gives aid to local communities for roads and transit at the same dollar amount they will get in 2017. Which will be the same dollar amount they received in 2016. Which was the same dollar amount they received in 2015. This likely adds up to a cut in local services, as inflation eats away at those dollars in future years (especially in the road construction business). Remember, local communities were already asking for a 0.5% sales tax to catch up on road repair, and they didn’t get that help from the WisGOPs Legislature in this session. This leaves little doubt that an already-bad situation will be much worse for local governments for 2017 and 2018, if there is no increase in aids in the next budget, and local streets will fall apart even more than they are now.

By the way, how convenient is it that Walker is making these promises before the actual budget requests and fund condition statements come in, so we can't see how absurd a pose this really is? I’m guessing he’ll look even more foolish in the time before the next Legislative session and budget debate starts, because what’ll come out is a report from the DOT which will likely confirm how “no new taxes or fees” is not a realistic answer in Wisconsin. This report is noted in part 12 of the LFB summary of the 2015-17 DOT budget.
Provide $300,000 in 2015-16 and $700,000 in 2016-17 in the departmental management and operations appropriation to be used by the Department to study methods of improving the transportation fund's solvency. Require the Department to submit a report to the Joint Committee on Finance by January 1, 2017, detailing the use of these funds, describing the study or studies, including any results and conclusions, and making recommendations regarding any related statutory modifications that would be needed to improve the fund's solvency.
It all feels like it’s gonna come to a head in this next budget, doesn’t it? And this is yet another reason Scott Walker is hoping like mad that he can find some kernel of employment along the Trump Train or some wingnut welfare organization, because keeping a “no taxes” pose in Wisconsin is proving to be every bit the disaster that it is in bankrupt ALEC states like Louisiana and Kansas (by the way, the Jayhawk State just ended up ANOTHER $76 million short last month).

This madness has to be stopped. We have to get back something from the well-connected and corporate in Wisconsin that are not paying for the infrastructure that they use, and are sticking us with a future bill that seems to rise by the day. And the puppet politicians that refused to govern, and allowed this deteriorating state to happen must also pay a price between now and 2018.


  1. I honestly wonder if this is all part of some ALEC scheme for a private company to buy all our roads, and then charge the users directly for repairs.

    1. Youre thinking correctly. New toll roads would be a great opportunity to sell off to some contributor, and then use the money to plug budget holes short
      -term. UW Syste amd state parks could work the same way

  2. You're the best, Jake. Also, jesus, 71% of our roads rated as poor or mediocre. 71%!!!!