By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ campaigned on fixing Wisconsin’s worn-out roads. In fact, Evers’ big union roadbuilder buddies crucified then-Gov. Scott Walker on the issue through a costly “scottholes” campaign.
But Wisconsin’s roads still rate an abysmal D+ coming up on three years into Evers’ term, according to the latest national assessment.
Despite the poor showing, Evers’ continues to push transportation funding away from roads and bridges and into his costly and, critics say, wasteful, climate change initiatives.
Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson earlier this month excitedly told Wisconsin Public Radio that the state could be in line for nearly $80 million from the pending $1 trillion-plus federal “infrastructure” bill to be used to expand an electric vehicle charging network in the state.
“Wisconsin will also have the opportunity to apply for the $2.5 billion in grant funding dedicated to EV charging in the bill,” according to the Biden administration.
“I think we’re going to be moving much more rapidly to electrification of our transportation system than people realize,” Thompson told WPR’s “The Morning Show.” “It’s coming quickly, and it’ll be very good for the environment.”
Not as quickly as the secretary thinks, and certainly not without massive taxpayer subsidies. But then again, that’s the Biden-Evers plan.
As of Dec. 31, Wisconsin counted just 6,310 electric vehicle registrations, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center at the U.S. Department of Energy. That represents a fraction of the 6 million vehicles on Wisconsin’s roads.
As of last fall there were about 550 public charging outlets across Wisconsin. While they gloss over the time and inconvenience involved in charging electric cars, proponents insist a dearth of charging stations is why the vehicles make up less than 1 percent of the new cars sold in the Badger State. That’s where taxpayer-funded subsidies come in.
“That’s ridiculous,” said state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin), a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee. “The government doesn’t subsidize gas stations.”
He said the private sector, as it did with gas stations, should take care of charging stations — based on what the market will bear.
“If we’re going to spend taxpayer dollars it should be spent where we’re going to get the biggest bang for their buck on roads and bridges,” Sanfelippo said.
Evers, bent on pushing a costly and unrealistic climate change alarmist agenda, sought $5 million in bonding for electric vehicle charging stations, and he wanted to use $10 million from Wisconsin’s Volkswagen emissions settlement for an EV charging outlet grant initiative. Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature saw the proposals as another waste of money and shot down Evers’ plans.
The governor could have used the $10 million to replace school buses, a fact not lost on the people who urged him to do so.
“This is an opportunity to get cleaner buses that not only have a direct impact on the environment but on the children who ride the bus.” Hime said. “We didn’t get anything on that.” Cherie Hime, executive director of the Wisconsin School Bus Association, told Empower Wisconsin earlier this year. Evers snubbed the school bus proposal in the last budget, too.
Meanwhile, despite Evers’ campaign promises to “fix the damn roads,” the potholes are piling up. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) 2021 Report Card For America’s Infrastructure gave Wisconsin a C overall but a D+ on roads and transit.
“There are roads all over my district and across this state in horrible condition that need to be fixed,” Sanfelippo said. “They want to raise the gas tax to come up with transportation money and now they are going to pee it away on something stupid that (a small percentage) of the population will use.”