April 24, 2014

Proposal would redistribute road spending

PHOTO: WRN

A Wisconsin environmental policy group has a proposal to amend the state’s constitution, in order to address a transportation funding formula which often leaves local governments struggling to maintain streets and roads.

The problem: ninety percent of the roads in the state are local roads, receiving about just twenty-five percent of the money from the state transportation fund. “On the other hand, state and federal highways like the interstate system make up ten percent of the roads in the state, and they are getting over sixty percent of the funding from the transportation fund,” said Steve Hiniker, Executive Director of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin. “If the roads are getting more potholes, it’s not the mayor’s fault, it’s not the common council’s fault. What it is, it’s the fact that the state is giving your dollars, taxpayer dollars, to big roads in the state.”

“What we are proposing is that, of all the funds that are collected by the state through gas taxes and registration fees, we take those funds and we split them in half,” said Hiniker. “One half goes for the local roads, and one half goes for the state and federal highways.”

They’re proposing this as an amendment to the state constitution because, Hiniker said , local governments can’t get their needs met when competing with the state’s road builders. “Every year, the legislature ignores the requests from local units of government to get more in local road aids, and every year more money goes to highway expansion/”

It’s a tough road – constitutional amendments must pass two consecutive sessions of the legislature, and a statewide referendum. “People sometimes are critical, saying “well that’s impossible.” It’s not impossible to pass a constitutional amendment. It may not happen this year, it may not happen next year. We will get this passed, unless the legislature passes a law that gives more money to keep communities whole on their road costs.”