Sunday, July 28, 2019

GOP fauxtrage at WisDOT more pathetic after SCOTUS wall decision

A recent whine job by Wisconsin Republicans on DOT projects illustrate how GOPs these days have no real core principles other than to grab as much money and power as they can for themselves and "their people", while denying the needs of everyone else.

You may recall that GOP legislators in the Joint Finance Committee refused to go along with Governor Tony Evers' plans to increase the gas tax by 8 cents to help fix the state's crumbling roads, and instead decided to use a one-time bump on tax revenues to add $90 million in General Fund dollars on a one-time basis to the state's roads, with the lion's share of that money earmarked to rural roads. Evers used vetoes to reduce that one-time money by $15 million, and got rid of the rural earmarks in the budget he signed.

Then last week DOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson announced the parameters of the grant program, and GOPs lost their minds.

It's a free country if Fitz and his fellow GOP legislators want to try to override an Evers veto, and return the money to being roads-only, but that is NOT what the DOT grant program says at all. It's possible that DOT will choose to have all $75 million of that money go to roads anyway, and the grant announcement returns the largest amount of money to rural areas.

Breakdown of DOT funding, new program
Towns $29.3 million
Counties $26.7 million
Cities and villages $19.0 million

It just says transit and bike paths and other projects can be considered along with road projects, because the STREETCAR (not "trolley", Fitz) is a form of transportation. In addition, given that Milwaukee County is by far the largest attractor of tourism dollars in the state (money that gets distributed back to rural areas), maybe Fitz shouldn't complain so much about a form of transportation for a city that often has more people in a 5-block radius than there are in entire counties in other parts of Wisconsin.

Senator Howard Marklein added on this pile of grievance along the same lines.
Nearly 19% of the vetoes, worth $172 million and 34 positions, changed legislative intent and gave unelected bureaucrats in state agencies the ability to decide where the funds will be spent. My biggest concern about this is that the philosophy of the current administration tends to lean toward allocating money and people to Milwaukee and Madison before sending it to rural communities.

For example, one of the most significant vetoes was to cut $15 million from funding that was allocated for local roads and to veto all of the language that described how the remaining $75 million would be distributed to local governments to fix our roads. This put all of the money we allocated for local roads into the hands of unelected bureaucrats at the Department of Transportation (DOT). They were given carte blanche to spend the money! That’s not what we wanted. You elected me to look out for rural Wisconsin and this type of veto takes away my role to represent you.
The dog-whistles Marklein makes about "Milwaukee and Madison" imply that somehow the (many more) residents of those communities aren't Wisconsinites and aren't worthy of funding like Marklein rural constituency is. That's some nice elitism there, Howie.

And Marklein's complaints about “unelected bureaucrats” are laughable - as if a bunch of accountants, realtors and insurance salesmen from nowhere towns and gerrymandered districts have a clue about what makes for the most necessary and cost-efficient transportation projects? It makes the GOPs seem so pathetic and whiny, and why is government the only job where some people don’t want to defer to pros who deal with this stuff every day?

Besides, if GOPs wanted to take "unelected bureaucrats" out of the equation for DOT funding, could have chosen to put this extra money into the already-existing formula of General Transportation Aids. They signed off on Evers' proposed 10% increase for nearly $35 million a year, but GOPs in the Legislature could have doubled that up, and left it up to local areas to figure out what to do with this extra money. But that would mean the extra funding would likely go past this year, and/or couldn’t pork up their districts, so they came up with this one-time gimmick instead to direct more money to their rural areas.

In addition, many of the vetoes Marklein refers to removed money from the Joint Finance Committee's supplemental appropriation, which would have given the 16 JFC members an up-or-down vote on whether agencies can use funds at a later date. Remember when Republicans believed in increased efficiency in government and had no problems with block grants to states to best decide? NOT ANYMORE! Now they want to slow down government and micromanage everything because they want to hamstring Evers while throwing more pork to their parts of the state.

The WisGOPs' act is doubly interesting in light of Friday night's Supreme Court decision which said that Trump could divert money designated to the US military to build a wall at the US-Mexico border.
The money Trump identified includes $3.6 billion from military construction funds, $2.5 billion in Defense Department money and $600 million from the Treasury Department’s asset forfeiture fund.

The case before the Supreme Court involved just the $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds, which the administration says will be used to construct more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) of fencing. One project would replace 46 miles (74 kilometers) of barrier in New Mexico for $789 million. Another would replace 63 miles (101 kilometers) in Arizona for $646 million. The other two projects in California and Arizona are smaller.

The other funds were not at issue in the case. The Treasury Department funds have so far survived legal challenges, and Customs and Border Protection has earmarked the money for work in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley but has not yet awarded contracts. Transfer of the $3.6 billion in military construction funds is awaiting approval from the defense secretary.
After what the WisGOP Legislature pulled with their Power Grab in December, I'm sure they are equally upset that President Trump is using taxpayer dollars in ways Congress did not allow him to, right? Maybe Wisconsin journalists should ask Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos what they think about the expansion of flexibility by the executive branch in DC.

The cynicism and dishonesty is eye-rolling. But it is also fitting of a GOP that has given up on trying to convince everyday people of their principles and the idea of good governance. Instead, they try to abuse government power and funding to help themselves at the expense of everyone else, and whine and complain when that doesn't happen. Which is why this is one of their theme songs in the 21st Century.

"There is no you, there is only me." - Trent Reznor


  1. If the GOP and Walker hadn't eliminated shared revenue at least counties could repair crumbling roads and bridges. Now they are desperate to look like they are doing something to help their constituents.

  2. Their usual cover for their inaction on matters of concern to their actual constituents is to say, "Boy, did you see how we stuck it to Milwaukee and Madison?"
    That turd-of-a-spin line is what passes for "ideas" and "problem-solving" among the state's Fascists.
    And while these Neros fiddle, their outlying districts grow older, depopulate, their economies choke, and the number of their aging residents living in poverty and struggling with alcohol and other addictions creeps upward.
    But these Fascists are not prone to looking in the mirror. As long as AM-talk radio tells them, and they believe, that they are better off than Hispanics on Milwaukee's near-south side, and better off than African-Americans on Milwaukee's near-north side, they let their so-called Fascist reps reign with a free hand, expanding one-percent welfare and keeping the state's manufacturing wages the lowest in the region.