Sen. Ringhand Column: Republicans Should Work With Democrats to Solve Transportation Funding Crisis

 

The state budget process has ground to a standstill as Republican legislative leaders try to find a solution as to how to fund transportation and squabble over publicly financing a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

It has been nearly a month since the Joint Committee on Finance last met on the budget and there seems to be no end to the impasse that has crippled the process.

I am deeply concerned that Republican legislative leaders have stated that transportation projects are going to be postponed as a result of the funding cuts they support. Projects that have been planned and scheduled for years will now be delayed or eliminated and as a result, the I-39/90 construction project is in great jeopardy of being postponed.

Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) has called for transportation to be removed from the state budget in order to negotiate a bi-partisan funding solution for transportation projects. I agree with Senator Shilling that by working together, Republicans and Democrats can find a bi-partisan solution to fund our transportation needs.

Wisconsin works best when we work together.

According to the Department of Transportation, a $500 million cut to the transportation budget would postpone the expansion of I-39/90 by two years. Republicans have now indicated that they want to cut the transportation budget by as much as $800 million. In order to reach that goal, the expansion of I-39/90 could be put on hold indefinitely.

Delaying this project is unacceptable. Since 2001, Wisconsin has studied the expansion of this important corridor and now is the time to eliminate the bottleneck at the border. Illinois has long completed their upgrade and expansion of the interstate. Upholding our end of the bargain will be good for commerce, jobs, tourism and public safety.

According the Department of Transportation, I-39/90 has accident rates higher than the statewide average for similar roads. This will only get worse if the expansion of I-39/90 is postponed.

I am willing to sit down with the Governor and legislative leaders to make sure that we have a plan to fund our scheduled road projects. Once again I’m calling on Governor Walker to come home and work with us to make sure that we keep our commitment to fund Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure.