Five major state highway projects delayed
By Roger Pitt
Response by area state legislators to the Department of Transportation delaying five major highway projects came as no surprise.
Estimated cost of the affected projects, including two from the area, is $2.23 billion. DOT said the delays were necessary because of revenue issues. Local projects on the two-year delay list are:
• State 15, from U.S. 45 in New London to State 76 in Greenville, 11 miles, including the Hortonville by-pass. Much preliminary work done on $148 million project, delayed to at least 2021.
• Widening HWY 10/441 between U.S. 41 and State 47, $482 million. Work in progress, but will be slowed, completion delayed to 2021.
It was expected the minute I learned of it. The nature of the responses were also anticipated.
They complained because their “chickens are coming home to roost” to borrow a trite expression. Another also applies: reap what you sow.”
The loudest complaints are by some of the legislators responsible for the delays which will continue driving woes for their constituents. It was the state Legislature that rejected all plans to increase revenue to fund a financially challenged highway budget.
It was the same body that slashed a plan by the DOT, and included in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget, to borrow $1.3 billion to fund projects on the construction schedule.
Not one word of culpability or responsibility was uttered.
While watching a prep football game, a discussion on making good decisions with my mother, 93, she said, “It is a matter of common sense.”
I couldn’t resist adding: “It is too bad the people we send to Washington and Madison don’t have any.”
Common sense in discussing spending money – a few dollars or billions – requires revenue to match the expenditure. (GOP leaders agreed to borrow $500 million to fund DOT projects, leaving $800 million of unfunded projects on the board.)
Prudent spending is a fact people and business live by to keep their head above water and avoid bankruptcy or losing their assets.
Government is the only body that spends with no concern about a growing deficit.
A year ago DOT revenue issues were outlined in the Oct. 28 column, prior to a constitutional referendum to “limit transportation designated revenue to its use only.” Voters passed it overwhelmingly.
The Legislature, leading up to the 2015-17 biennial budget, rejected proposals by a bipartisan state transportation commission to increase revenue by raising state gas tax, registration and driver’s license fees and putting tolls on major highways. A transportation budget shortfall of $15.3 billion is expected over the next decade.
DOT financial issues impact more than the state and federal highways it manages, because “highway aids” are also important to counties and municipalities in maintenance of local roads.
The Waupaca County Board rejected a plan to add a $25 vehicle registration fee to the annual state fee of $75 to be used for county highway maintenance. Some municipalities, including Appleton, have opted to use it.
It was one of the revenue options the legislature rejected off hand.
As noted in the Oct. 28, 2014, column: “Spending more than income is as perilous to government as to you and me.
Politicians too often view spending and revenue differently – making decisions they would not do with their own money. They have the discretion to increase taxes and fees, while we do not have those options.
They did not exercise those options, and now complain about the consequences they are responsible for.