Transportation funding need or greed?

Empower Wisconsin | Jan. 14, 2020

By M.D. Kittle 

MADISON  — Millions of people play the lottery for the chance to hit it big. Few win. 

So why is it so amazing that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation received a total of $1.4 billion worth of applications for $75 million in one-time grant funds? 

Transportation bureaucrats and lobbyists, the same people shaking down taxpayers (and fee payers) for billions of dollars more in road funding, insist local governments statewide have “urgent” transportation needs.  

DOT Secretary-designee Craig Thompson sounded amazed but not surprised that his agency received nearly 1,600 eligible applications for the Multimodal Local Supplement program. 

“This process truly demonstrates the significant needs of the local system,” Thompson told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s pretty staggering when you see the actual number of projects and their dollar values.” 

News flash: Governments of all kinds will always insist they are starved for money. Even when they receive massive infusions of cash, as the state’s transportation agency just did.  

The DOT’s 2019-21 budget grew by $600 million in state funding alone, pushing the agency’s total two-year budget to north of $7.25 billion. A good chunk of that money is going to local transportation projects — including the fresh $75 million in additional funding through a competitive application process. 

When government lobbyists tell you “the needs are unquestionable,” question the source of the assertion. It is their job to advocate for more money for their members and, as Empower Wisconsin noted last week, taxpayers are paying for that service. 

Guess who else insists the state’s transportation needs are many? Wisconsin’s road builders, who eat well off of taxpayers-funded road projects. The transportation interests, of course, are breathing easier these days. Thompson is one of their own. He led the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin for years before being tapped by Gov Tony Evers to serve as Transportation secretary.

Need? The trough feeders of transportation will always plead poverty. But if DOT offered $1.4 billion in one-time grant money, chances are there would be billions of dollars in “urgently needed” requests. 

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