We elect leaders who will spend our tax dollars wisely. Throwing billions toward tax cuts for the super-rich does nothing to keep roads and bridges from crumbling and tumbling.
The imminent passage of a new state budget allows us to clearly see who’s willing to do the heavy lifting when it comes to keeping our roads and bridges from crumbling and tumbling.
We will first note again that with a record $7 billion state surplus, there is no good reason why this new budget shouldn’t be the ultimate bipartisan win-win—with enough funding for tax cuts as well as crucial investments. Done right, it would make the state government a solid partner with the federal government, which is doing its part through President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the American Rescue Plan—the three elements of his Build Back Better agenda.
The infrastructure law—known officially as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—has already led to around $3.1 billion in announced programs for Wisconsin roads, bridges, public transit, ports, and airports, according to the Biden administration. In total, Wisconsin could see $5.4 billion over the next five years in federal funds to help fix many of the nearly 1,000 bridges and 2,000 miles of Wisconsin highways rated in poor condition. The law represents the single largest dedicated investment in bridges since the interstate highway system was first built. And it’s about time. This infrastructure doesn’t maintain itself, though that seems to be what some politicians think given how little they’ve invested over the years.
Like the president, Gov. Tony Evers has been a willing partner in “fixing the damn roads,” as he likes to say. In his first term, nearly 1,600 bridges and nearly 6,000 miles of roads received improvements. Polling has shown Wisconsinites support infrastructure investments.
We would be addressing the state’s maintenance backlog even better if there were working partners among the Republicans in the Legislature. Instead, the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee initially rejected many of Evers’ infrastructure proposals. Last month, Republicans zeroed out state funding requested by Evers to support repairs for the Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge in Green Bay—only to later put it back in the budget bill. And Republicans rejected Evers’ suggestion of using $380 million of the surplus to pay down state debt in transportation bonds. That would have saved a lot of taxpayer dollars that will now go to paying interest instead of our roads. Again, Republicans would later use a similar approach in a slightly different manner—for no good reason, it appears, other than to say they killed Evers’ ideas. All they did was add an extra, partisan step to the process, wasting time that could have been used in good-faith negotiating.
Earlier: Against It Before They Were for It—Some Wisconsin Politicians Are Busy Promoting Funds to Fix Infrastructure
There’s nothing wrong with having an alternative approach to solving a problem. We would be happy to review a Republican option for keeping our state’s infrastructure safe and sound. But using billions of surplus dollars to cut taxes for the very-wealthy isn’t some kind of alternative approach to fixing our roads, it’s an alternative reality and just fiscally irresponsible.
You can’t fill a pothole with tax cuts.
Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to reflect that Republicans reversed themselves on initial rejections of some spending requests from Gov. Evers.
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