Thanks for inviting me, Campus Life of Sheboygan County, to speak to your luncheon crowd this week! Campus Life offers a lot of positive opportunities for families and communities to grow together and serve one another. Democrat or Republican or otherwise, I think we can all agree that our state and our nation can use all the positive community interaction that we can possibly get. Keep up your excellent work, Campus Life!
Negotiations continue on the 2017-19 state budget. The legislature and the Governor are rightly reluctant to increase the transportation tax burden on our already heavily-taxed citizens to pay for state and local roads. But we are cognizant also that a "borrow-and-spend" strategy isn't a strategy at all; that plan merely makes the problem that much harder for our children to solve in the future. Delaying and deferring projects can save money in the very short term but ends up costing more overall due to inflation and interest. I look forward to voting soon on a plan that begins to address the long-term sustainability of our state's transportation infrastructure but also provides certainty for our schools and communities.
As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions. Best wishes on your weekend!
Regardless of how the state's two-year transportation budget shapes up, significant reform is needed at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT). I am very encouraged by the efforts already happening there under the department's new leadership team, but more remains to be done.
That's why I'm cosponsoring a comprehensive DOT reform bill that will help drive many big changes that we owe to the taxpayers of Wisconsin. Among other things, it will compel a complete and thorough operational and financial audit of the entire agency by an independent auditor. The bill incorporates recommendations found in last year's legislative audit of the State Highway Program, providing new options for competitive bidding of projects. It will create a bidding process that incentivizes transparency and the use of Wisconsin-based contractors. It will reduce costs by limiting how much highway engineering work happens in-house at DOT. It also incorporates other existing legislative proposals such as fully repealing our prevailing wage law and placing an independent inspector general at DOT.
This reform package has not yet been formally introduced, but it will no doubt receive a lot of attention in the legislature this fall. Click here to read more!
Be Safe, Be Smart
Between six and eight inches of rain fell on parts of southeastern Wisconsin on Tuesday night. Miraculously, no storm-related fatalities have been reported, and the swollen Fox River (and most other area waterways) finally crested yesterday and the waters are slowly receding, but folks aren't out of the woods yet. Electricity is still out in several communities (the Burlington WE Energies substation is still underwater) and the Fox River will remain at major flood stage through at least the weekend. Governor Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in several counties, which enabled state agencies to participate fully in the response efforts; the Wisconsin National Guard has been activated and has been helping already with tasks such as welfare checks at senior housing facilities. Overall, things are finally getting better instead of worse, but many of our neighbors have been severely impacted by the floodwaters.
Here are a few ideas worth keeping in mind:
It is not too late to help. Charities such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Love Inc. and many others have helped respond to the crisis. Demand for their services is extremely high after this storm, and summer is a time of year when the donations on which they depend tend to drop off. To make matters worse, several of these charities' locations and storehouses were also impacted by this week's floods; they've had to throw away some of their stockpiles. Now would be a great time to consider donating money, time or supplies. Just beware of potential fraud; it's a good idea to direct your donations to reputable charities that you've heard of before.
Make a plan for your own family. Flash flooding is the #1 cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. Just 12 inches of water can sweep away vehicles. It's worth taking a few minutes to make sure that you are ready to contact friends and family for help, stock up on a few emergency supplies, etc. Maybe you're ready, but are your family members ready?