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Governor Walker’s Transportation Budget Pushes Back Against The Highway Lobby, But Doesn’t Go Far Enough
“We applaud Governor Walker’s call for a review of major highway projects to identify unnecessary taxpayer expenditures, yet his budget simply does not go far enough in cutting unnecessary new highway projects and continues to lavish money on road builders.
His call for a new review by the Transportation Projects Commission of already enumerated highway projects could identify wasteful spending on unnecessary highway projects. Yet Governor Walker has also proposed more than $1 billion for major highway development, which includes millions for unnecessary new highway projects. To pay for these projects, the Governor proposes raiding the general fund, which pays for public priorities like public safety and education, and removing transit from the transportation fund. Bottomline, we are taking from other public priorities and dumping transit in order to pay for more highways to nowhere. Meanwhile, transit service, which both young and elderly residents are using more, is level-funded statewide with only $106 million each year.
These priorities run counter to emerging trends and the way we travel now. With gas prices up and lifestyles changing, we are driving less and taking transit, walking, and biking more. The average Wisconsinite drove 500 fewer miles in 2010 than in 2004, and while young people drove 23 percent fewer miles in 2009 than the average young person in 2001, their travel on public transportation increased by 40% nationwide.
Two years ago, massive increases for major highway projects and cuts to local road repair and transit left many local communities unable to fix local potholes and having to reduce their transit service or raise fares. It's time to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, and meet the growing demand for transportation alternatives. We need to get Wisconsin’s transportation priorities straight and enact common-sense reforms.
WISPIRG recommends two steps to ensure that the spending of our tax dollars reflects public needs and protects the public purse. First, we should cut back on unnecessary new highway projects, and second, we should use the savings to increase funding for local road repair and improved transit service.”
WISPIRG-The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, is a non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization. www.wispirg.org.
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