November 2, 2015
For immediate release:
Unfunded Road Construction
The State Legislature’s Finance Committee is set to vote this week on borrowing two hundred million dollars to finance new road construction and repairs to existing roads. This authority was given to them in the 2015 – 2017 budget that was just negotiated, but this vote of the Finance Committee is coming with a bi-partisan twist.
There is no plan in place to pay the money back, so just like Washington D.C politicians, some in Madison think that putting this debt on future taxpayers is the route to go. Currently, the vast majority of road construction is paid through vehicle related fees and taxes, including the gasoline tax and automobile licensing. These funds are completely spent on road work now, so that means any additional road funding will need to come out of the general fund, think schools, universities, community aids, or they will need to come from a future source of unidentified revenue, a gas tax increase, registration fee increase, usage fee, toll road, or some other charge to the residents of the state.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is currently scheduled for a legislative audit, which should reveal if the bureaucracy is too large, and whether we are building roads as cost effectively as possible. This report will be done within the next twelve months, and I believe no additional funds should be spent on transportation until it is confirmed that we are using the current monies as effectively as possible.
If the case can be made that the order of road construction projects currently scheduled should be changed due to safety or other concerns, then let’s have that discussion. Spending money with no plan to pay it back is a guaranteed way to see an excuse for a tax increase when the loans need to be paid back.