Wednesday, February 7, 2018

GOP idiocy in DC and in Madison may mean that tolls are coming soon

With recent winter weather and more snow and freezing temperatures on the way, many of you may have noticed of our deteriorating roads in Wisconsin. You might also be reminded that our State Legislature and Governor Walker did next to nothing to fix the problem of underfunded roads in the last budget cycle….except for a $252 million pork project connected to the Fox-con, of course.

Which is what made the comments today from the two GOP leaders at the Legislature at the Wisconsin Counties’ Association meeting all the more interesting. And it was spurred on by the fact that our “pro-infrastructure” president is likely to cut the amount of money that states get from DC when it comes to doing road projects.
President Donald Trump last month called on Congress to approve a $1.5 trillion federal infrastructure plan that likely would require states to put up some money to receive the federal funds. Trump's plan would rely on state and local governments working with private investors to come up with much of the cash.

Republican legislative leaders have long been supportive of tolling in Wisconsin and they reiterated that again Wednesday. Gov. Scott Walker has also been open to tolling and last week said he would consider a gas tax increase to access the federal infrastructure money, if the increase were offset by cuts elsewhere. But Fitzgerald said Wednesday there was not enough support in the Senate to pass a gas tax increase or vehicle registration fee increases.

"The only way that we are going to be able to do this and the only way that makes sense is open road tolling," Fitzgerald said…

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who appeared with Fitzgerald at the Wisconsin Counties Association event, has been a longtime backer of tolling as part of a way to raise money for roads in Wisconsin. Vos said Wednesday that he couldn't be more supportive of the idea and he was confident Walker could get behind it if he has any concerns.

"We can all vote for tolling, it's a good idea, it's the future," Vos said.

Coming to a Wisconsin highway near you?

This is a great example of how the incoherent GOP mentality on road funding causes funding gaps. Trump wants states and local governments to pay more for their projects because the feds lack money to keep up their end of the bargain. And why is that? Because those funds have been drained due to the federal gas tax not being raised in 25 years, and a Piece of Shit tax bill that blows deficits sky-high.

But state GOPs won’t agree to actually raise money through taxes or fees because they don’t want to get on the wrong side of the Kochs and Norquists of the world. And years of increased borrowing eats up an increasing amount of the budget, with new borrowing costs going up even more due to rising interest rates

So what comes up instead? Tolling, which allows these weasels to claim that “we didn’t raise taxes on you if you didn’t use the road.”And tolling might be a more effective way to do it, especially if you have major unmet capacity needs on certain highways under the current system. But it also is an indictment of the massive buck-passing that both Walker and WisGOP have pulled over the last 8 years in power.

Even the normally Walker-lenient “Wisconsin Politi-fact” in the Journal-Sentinel didn’t let Scotty off the hook for his past neglect, calling him out for his claims that Wisconsin is investing more in roads than it did under Governor Jim Doyle from 2003-2011.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau told us it’s possible to reach Walker’s figures by considering the total raw dollars put toward transportation programs, including a double-count of the principal in terms of money borrowed.

That is, Walker’s method counts the principal at the time money was borrowed, and counts it again when repayments are made on that debt. That method shows Walker’s eight years of DOT funding, in raw dollars, including bonding and subsequent debt service payments, at $25.8 billion -- $3.4 billion more than Doyle.

But besides doing the double counting, that measure also fails to take into account inflation…

Excluding the double counting and taking into account inflation -- that is, real dollars spent on transportation -- Doyle actually spent more in his eight years than Walker has in his.

We rate Walker’s statement Mostly False.
And those figures seem to include state funding only. Wisconsin has also had less federal help than it did in the Doyle days, due to the end of the high-spending Bush Administration and the 2009 stimulus bill, which means Wisconsin roads have fallen even further behind in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.

Now with Trump and other GOP dopes in DC threatening to take away even more of their share of funding, Wisconsin’s already awful infrastructure situation is likely to be much worse in the next few years. Which explains why even the WisGOP leaders in the Assembly admit that tolling has to be on the table, even if Gov Unintimidated won’t talk about it (he gave some gobbledygook today about "we'd need to cut taxes elsewhere to make up the difference". Hey Scotty, there'd be no problem if we had extra money lying around, so tell us where this magic source of extra money can be taken from?).

And of course, none of the WisGOPs will mention that a study from late 2016 said that tolling would take a few years before it was fully operational and cost an estimated $350-$400 million to start up. That means we’d go further in the hole in the short term, with no way to make up the difference.

Can we get some adults back in charge of things at the Capitol, in both DC and in Madison? That is apparently the only way we will avoid major potholes and deferred costs for the costly neglect that Wisconsin roads have received for much of the 2010s.


  1. Jake, you never leave the Madison Bubble, what do you care if roads are tolled?

    1. I bet I travel more of this state than you, Bagger. I do 10 Brewer games a year, got family in Chicago, and head up North a couple times a year to family retreats.

      I see some weak-minded fool that lives in a Bubble and doesn't care. And it ain't me, kid.