Funding for transportation projects has been a hot debate in the Governor’s state budget. Susan Schmitz, president of Downtown Madison, Inc. and Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, joined guest host Denise Demarb on A Public Affair to discuss transportation.
Last week, Soglin held a press conference on the transportation plan for Wisconsin where he expressed his disappointment of the Capitol for not settling a budget, how that will affect Madison’s budget planning, and the Volkswagen settlement. The VW settlement would provide federal funding for electric vehicles and cleaner energy for transportation. Without a state budget, Soglin is concerned Wisconsin won’t be able to cash in on that settlement.
Deshane added, “This is the second instance where the state’s been somewhat behind the eight ball on the transportation…We are clearly not doing something right here when it comes to getting in there and being competitive and being prompt.”
Schmitz and Deschane stressed the importance of a regional transit authority to help coordinate public transportation in the state, which the Republican-led legislature abolished in 2011. An RTA, they say, is the only way to get service to the people who need it. The tax, overseen by a board, would only go towards transportation funds. RTAs are not simply a tax, but rather it provides a service that is necessary to serve people in different areas beyond city boundaries.
“The government people trust the most is the one closest to the people. An RTA keeps the money within the region as opposed to it going to the Wisconsin DOT, getting stirred around in the big pot, and distributed wherever it goes. It’s held locally, it’s governed locally, and it’s put to use locally,” Deschane said.
Another battle Wisconsin faces is road maintenance. Infrastructure doesn’t last forever, our guests said, and roads designed fifty years ago do not work for current traffic. Deschane said the need is too great to not invest repairs.