It’s Long Past Time To Fix It

by Sen. Janet Bewley


I can’t remember who it was, or what meeting I was at, but I can still hear the frustration in the man’s voice as he spoke about the terrible state of the roads he drives on to get to and from work.  Something about the way he said “It’s long past time to fix it,” stuck with me.  Simple and to the point, a perfect example of the kind of common sense so often missing down in Madison. 


Like many others across Northern Wisconsin, I spent last Thursday night meeting with business leaders, local officials and citizens to talk about the need to finally take action to start rebuilding our state’s infrastructure, especially local roads and bridges.  It’s not like this is a problem we don’t know how to solve.  The issue has been studied, reports have been issued, and recommendations have been put forth.  People gathered in 70 of the State’s 72 Counties to send the same message to Madison – it’s time to fix our roads.


Storms this past summer have only made the problems worse.  You’ve passed the twisted hulks of culverts that have been removed and replaced, waited on flagmen and women protecting road crews and navigated carefully between washed out shoulders.  People in Southern Wisconsin have a hard time imagining the magnitude of the challenge our local crews face and the tremendous amount of work they’ve done helping us all get back to normal.


I want to join many people across our district in thanking the local Emergency Management, Public Works and Highway crews for the work they are still doing to get our roads up and running before winter returns all too soon.


But as your State Senator I know we need to do much more than just thank these hard-working men and women.  We need to back that up by bringing more of our tax dollars home for local roads.  I was encouraged to see an increased focus on supporting local roads in the budget request the Governor and Department of Transportation announced last month.  Unfortunately, it’s not enough. 


My Republican colleagues in the Assembly have stated that all options need to be on the table for Transportation funding.  I couldn’t agree more.   And I know we can’t start a conversation empty-handed.


That’s why I recently circulated a bill that would allow us to make long overdue investments in rebuilding our roads and bridges.  My proposal would bring home $209 million dollars that are currently being taken from working taxpayers’ pockets and handed to a small group of extremely wealthy individuals.  Eliminating a tax break that rewards people for not creating jobs would allow us to double local road aids for Counties and increase aids to our Municipalities by a third.


I know my bill is a long shot.  But I believe it is a good faith effort to find a way to effectively use limited resources in a way that supports our economy.  I look forward to the give and take on this and other proposals.  Although I can’t remember who said “it’s long past time to fix it," I do know he’s not alone.  Just this week my legislative office received a message from a coalition of business leaders that noted, very accurately, “The three pillars of Wisconsin's economy are manufacturing, agriculture and tourism; and all three pillars depend on good, safe roads.  Without a modern, efficient transportation development and funding plan, all current and future economic development initiatives are in jeopardy."


They’re absolutely right.  Let’s get to work.