Monday, June 12, 2023

FEDs giving strong boost to Wisconsin next 2 years, helping Evers "fix the damn roads"

After a brief delay to get the shared revenue bill figured out, the biggest topics in the state budget will barrel through the Joint Finance Committee over the next 2-3 weeks. Transportation funding will be in the spotlight tomorrow, and while the state is seeing a shortfall in revenues such as gas taxes and vehicle registrations (as I noted last week), they will be getting bailed out from the infrastructure bills and other Federal assistance from Washington DC.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau describes the numerous areas that the Feds help Wisconsin's local governments in fixing roads and related transportation projects.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) operates several local transportation assistance programs that directly provide federal funds to local governments through grants for transportation projects, including (a) the surface transportation program (STP), which allocates federal funds to complete a variety of improvements to federal-aid eligible roads and streets; (b) the transportation alternatives program (TAP), which funds non-motorized vehicle transportation projects; and (c) the congestion mitigation and air quality (CMAQ) improvement program, which provides grants for projects to reduce transportation>-related air pollution or reduce traffic congestion. In addition, DOT also operates the railroad crossing improvement program, which reimburses railroad companies for projects to improve the safety of railroad crossings.
And with the infrastructure bill, all of these programs are slated to get a boost in funding for the next 2 years, and hundreds of millions of other additional Fed dollars will be coming through WisDOT for other programs.

US DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced last September that $80 million grant coming from DC to do work on a series of interstate bridges in Columbia County. And another one of those bridge projects are slated to take place along my favorite drive in the city I live in.

And the LFB adds that the FEDs are going to play a role in continuing to invest in State Highway Rehabilitation - basically regular maintenance and resurfacings on the state's highways and interstates. The amount of funds invested in State Highway Rehab had a sizable jump in the first four years under Tony Evers after flatlining under Scott Walker, and that higher rate of investment is slated to continue over the next 2 years.

...program funding increased from $1,626.2 million in 2017- 19, to $1,937.8 million in 2019-21, and to $2,207 million in 2021-23, or an increase of 35.7% over the past two biennia. However, $139.2 million in additional program funding in the 2021-23 biennium was appropriated due the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which was enacted in November, 2021, after the 2021-23 state budget was adopted. IIJA is expected to provide state with an increased level of federal transportation funding in the five years following its enactment (2021- 22 through 2025-26). As a result, the SHR [State Highway Rehabilitation] program was provided with additional funding of $123.6 million in 2021-22 and $15.6 million in 2022-23 under federal funding plans that were submitted by DOT and approved by the Joint Committee on Finance under the first two years of IIJA…..

Table 3 shows the SHR program's adjusted base funding level for the 2023-25 biennium (including standard budget adjustments), as well as the amounts recommended for the program under AB 43/SB 70. The bills would provide total funding of $2,214.6 million to the program in 2023-25, which is 0.3% higher than the program's actual funding level in 2021-23 after including the additional federal aid provided under IIJA, and 5.5% higher than the program's 2023-25 annual adjusted base funding doubled.
And when combined with the major projects and highway improvements scheduled throughout the state, Evers' budget has more than $3 billion designated for the 3 largest state highway programs.

The GOP-run Joint Finance Committee has the ability to move around some of this state and federal assistance for WisDOT, so keep an eye on what they do tomorrow (or don't do). But regardless, this state should be seeing some progress on its backlog of transportation infrastructure over the next 2 years, and a lot of construction work available for those who might want to take those gigs.

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