Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DOT bill leaves us worse off than when this budget started

As I calculated yesterday, with the Fox-con passing earlier in the day, there was no way for the Joint Finance Committee to keep borrowing at a relatively low level unless they cut spending on highway projects from Scott Walker’s proposed budget. And a $75 hybrid tax and a $100 electirc car tax wasn't making up the difference.

And I turned out to be right as I looked at the motion that was passed last night. First of all, the Foxconn project will slow down work on the Zoo Interchange. Part of this will be because of less money going to the other projects in the “Southeast Megaprojects” area of the DOT budget ($20.8 million), but also includes this specific language.
Specify that DOT would not be permitted to expend southeast Wisconsin freeway megaprojects program funding from any source (SEG, FED, or bond revenue) for the north leg of the Zoo Interchange project (between Swan Boulevard and Burleigh Street in Milwaukee County) in the 2017-19 biennium. Further, prohibit DOT from using any contract let savings from construction contracts funded from the southeast Wisconsin freeway megaprojects program in the 2017-19 biennium for construction work on the north leg of the Zoo Interchange project.
You hear me Tosa, Falls, and Washington County! You get to deal with Zoo Interchange construction through at least 2020. Don’t like THAT”? Then take it up with your “representatives” that voted to keep you in traffic, including Koo-Koo Kooyenga, ALEC Queen Vukmir and Bertie Darling.

There are also cuts throughout the rest of the state. This includes the major projects outside of Southeastern Wisconsin, including I-39/90 south of Madison, Hwy 18-151 in the Madison/Verona area, and Highway 10-441 around Appleton. The second will involve other state highways, generally 2 or 4-lane roads that aren’t freeways. I’ll give a comparison to what was spent in these areas in the last budget, as well as what was cut from Walker’s budget.

Highway funding change, 2015-17 vs 2017-19
Major projects
vs. 2015-17 DOWN $78.6 million (-12.3%)
vs. Walker budget DOWN $106.2 million (-15.8%)

All other state highways
vs. 2015-17 DOWN (-4.6%)
vs. Walker budget DOWN $82.2 million (-4.8%)

Oh, and for you GOP voters in the 920?

So yes, these are cuts and we will see delays and a further backlog by the time the next budget comes around in 2019.

In other parts of the DOT motion-

1. JFC reduced the increase in funding for the Local Roads Improvement Program (LRIP) by $2 million from where Walker wanted it. Given that there was no ability for local governments to impose sales taxes to fix the roads (something that has been proposed for more than 2 years by members from both parties), this will mean it’ll be more likely that even more communities will turn to wheel taxes in the coming years to try to keep up with increasing needs to fix local streets. Green Bay is the latest and largest place to be looking at adding one.

On the flip side, the JFC agreed to add another $7.5 million to the state’s Local Bridge Improvement Program, making for a $10 million increase compared to 2015-17. So at some part of our road system has a chance of getting fixed in the next 2 years.

Was there pork sent out to key parts of the state where the GOP has a good chance of losing in 2018? OF COURSE THERE WAS. Even with the highway spending cuts, Highway 23 between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac is now at the front of the line to have $19.4 million in reused funds in the next 2 years, and there will be a third lane put onto I-94 in St. Croix County at a total cost of $144 million.

In addition, other pet projects got a boost, including $4 million to the Wisconsin Rapids airport (apparently to accomodate private jets flying into the new golf courses in CAFOland), $3.2 million sent to Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Door County for a new dock wall, and $1.7 million to the Appleton airport to make it a site eligible for rescue and firefighting capabilities. There are also lame symbolic things like signage to private businesses and parks.

Did the WisGOPs use the DOT budget to screw workers even further? OF COURSE THEY DID
Approve the Governor's recommendations that previously had been removed as a non-fiscal policy item. The restored provisions would eliminate the state prevailing wage law for state building projects and state highway projects as well as retain the current law prohibition against local governments enacting or administrating their own prevailing wage laws or similar ordinances. Specify that for a project of public works that is subject to bidding, the prevailing wage repeal first applies to a project for which the request for bids is issued on or after September 1, 2018. Specify that for a project of public works that is not subject to bidding, the prevailing wage repeal first applies to a contract that is entered into on or after September 1, 2018.
I can’t say this enough, if you work construction or trades and vote GOP, you are a SUCKER, and are cutting your own throat.

But the topper is the deregulation and other payoffs to corporate contributors and puppetmasters that was part of the DOT omnibus. In addition to several pages limiting local communities from regulating quarries and fracking-type activities (bad enough), we had this paragraph.
Create a provision under the Chapter 66 municipal law requirements of the statutes to prohibit a political subdivision, defined as a county, city, village, or town, from enforcing an ordinance if any of the following applies: (a) a statutory provision expressly prohibits the political subdivision from enforcing the ordinance; (b) the ordinance logically conflicts with a statutory provision; (c) the ordinance defeats the purpose of a statutory provision; or (d) the ordinance violates the spirit of a statutory provision.
Not only does this motion say that “state law trumps local law”, but it also is extremely broad and can basically shoot down any attempt by a local community to enact tougher standards (like for work conditions or environmental protections, for example) than the state has. This is the exact opposite of how most of these things work, where the state usually has a minimum standard and locals are allowed to go further.

But this is how ALEC-owned legislators operate, using the power of the state to keep local governments (who aren’t as bought as the puppets in Madison) from passing laws and standards that fit what they think is their community’s best interest. The most notorious recent example of this was when the GOP Legislature in Missouri actually lowered the minimum wage in the city of St. Louis from $10 down to the state level of $7.70. Oh, but the GOP is the “party of small government and local control”? MY ASS!

Since the hybrid tax only will raise $5.8 million a year, the $1 billion hole for the DOT will remain in the next budget, with the costs likely going higher due to inflation and neglect over the next 2 years. So we end up back in the same hole we were in the DOT budget, except with more restrictions on local control, more wage suppression, and more fees slapped onto "those people" driving hybrids.

THIS is what WisGOP haggled over for 2 ½ months for? FIRE THEM ALL.


  1. You're telling me...That delayed I-94 E/W project means I'll get to fly (eastbound) through the new Zoo and come to a screeching halt every day as four lanes squeeze to three and then traffic gets filleted by substandard ramps in and around the Stadium.

    Maybe we don't need the billion-dollar-plus gold-plated-design that they trotted out, but we sure could use some relief...

    Now it'll be a race between the state's finances and the adoption of self driving cars to eliminate traffic.

    1. Used to live in the Milwaukee environment, then later Madison. Then later in non-big communities.

      In am in no way against peeople that try to progress and make efforts to improve live, whether they have a college degree or heve "just" working experience.

      Man, life's hard whether you have to drive down I-94 or just down Highway 61 or 21.

    2. And we are all going to feeling the bumps in the road and the freeway delays for the next 2 years under this pathetic DOT budget.

      It only changes when we change the leaders