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July 21, 2017


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Find Internships in Wisconsin

This week, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development launched a new website to connect college students with internship opportunities around the state. Click the image above to explore this new resource!

 Transportation: Bonding isn't the Answer  

As I sit down to write this column, Wisconsin is at a budget stalemate. I have spent the last few weeks traveling the 51st Assembly District and I am frequently asked when the budget will be complete. As many of you know, transportation spending is the final subject to be agreed on. As the state continues to function under the previous budget, we are faced with the decision to either raise additional revenue to fund road projects or borrow more money.

This spring, my office mailed a survey to a large pool of constituents in the 51st Assembly District to measure the district’s take on a number of important issues that would likely arise within the legislature this session. As these surveys came back, I made sure to pay special attention to two questions discussing our transportation fund. When asked what our top priorities should be in the budget, more than half of the responses listed funding transportation as one of their top three priorities. A second question asked each individual their preferred method for raising transportation revenue. A staggering 70% indicated they supported raising the gas tax, 44% supported an increase in the vehicle registration fee, and 31% would like to see tolls in Wisconsin. I believe there are two main takeaways from this data. Not only do Wisconsinites recognize that we’re not keeping pace with our transportation budget, but they are willing to pay a little more to make sure the roads they drive on are safe.

Wisconsin has a transportation borrowing problem. According to a report by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state will pay $357 million on transportation fund debt service in fiscal year 2017, up from $197 million in fiscal year 2011. To put this in perspective, in 2011, 11% of transportation revenue was used to pay interest on these bonds. This year, the state will pay close to 20% of transportation revenues to service our debt. This trend is unsustainable and the bill for this massive increase in debt service is footed by taxpayers. In order to fix our roads, we need to raise revenue, not put it on the credit card. Given the option to increase borrowing in my survey, only 8% of respondents selected this as an option they would approve of. It simply couldn’t be any clearer.

Visiting with constituents in southwest Wisconsin, residents complain that the taxes and fees they are paying are going to projects in urban areas of the state and I agree. It certainly wouldn’t be fair to further increase revenue just for it to end up being spent to fix Milwaukee’s roads. Rural roads need just as much attention as those in our city centers.

While a compromise is sure to be struck, I will fight for an increase in revenue, not additional bonding. The voters have spoken, and it is my job to exercise their wishes in Madison. Safe roads cost money, and there is overwhelming support to raise revenue to build them. This is a problem we cannot continue to ignore.

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Quilt Block Wind Farm and Platteville-Belmont Trail

On Monday, Lafayette Highway Commissioner Tom Jean gave me a tour of two large projects in the works in Lafayette County. Quilt Block Wind Farm, slated for completion this year is a $175 million investment that will power 36,000 homes with clean, renewable energy. The Platteville-Belmont Trail connects the two cities with a scenic route for bikers and pedestrians. Both of these projects are impressive investments in our community. I look forward to their completion!

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In the District

This week I had the chance to attend the Iowa County Cattlemen's Steak Feed as well as the Lafayette County Fair. On the left, I enjoyed an excellent steak dinner with Grace Judd. While at the fair, I bid on (and won) the champion duck pair at the livestock auction. The photo on the right is with Eden Bahr, the girl who raised the ducks. 

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