Thompson Reacts To Transportation In State Budget | Wisconsin Public Television

Thompson Reacts To Transportation In State Budget

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Premiere Date: 
July 3, 2015

Thompson Reacts To Transportation In State Budget

Thompson is the executive director of the Transportation Development Association of WI.

Episode Transcript

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

THE JOINT FINANCE COMMITTEE'S REPUBLICAN MAJORITY APPROVED A TRANSPORTATION PLAN AS WE MENTIONED FOR THE STATE BUDGET. THE OMNIBUS MOTION CUTS BORROWING FOR ROAD WORK FROM GOVERNOR WALKER'S PROPOSED $1.3 BILLION TO $500 MILLION. AN ADDITIONAL $350 MILLION COULD BE ADDED BY THE FINANCE COMMITTEE IN THE FUTURE. NOW THE CHANGES IN BONDING WOULD MEAN A $200 MILLION CUT TO THE ZOO INTERCHANGE, DELAYING WORK ON THE NORTH SEGMENT. THE PLAN WOULD ALSO DELAY $100 MILLION IN RESURFACING PROJECTS STATE-WIDE ACCORDING TO THE LEGISLATIVE FISCAL BUREAU. DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE MEMBER REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS TAYLOR OF MADISON HAS CONCERNS ABOUT HIGHWAY PROJECT DELAYS.

CHRIS TAYLOR:

WE HAVE PROJECTS THAT ARE GOING TO BE DELAYED THAT WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF AND WE HAVE BUSINESSES, LOCAL BUSINESSES, NOT JUST IN MY DISTRICT, IN YOUR DISTRICT, TOO, THAT ARE GOING TO BE HURTING. AND THIS IS WHAT THEY'RE TELLING US. YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO DO IT THIS WAY.

JOHN NYGREN:

I THINK THERE'S BEEN AGREEMENT, AT LEAST ON OUR SIDE OF THE AISLE, AND IT SOUNDS LIKE, I MEAN, I'VE HEARD YOU BEING VERY CRITICAL OF THE LEVEL OF BONDING THAT THE GOVERNOR PROPOSED IN THE BUDGET. AND I WOULD POINT OUT IT'S BEEN SIGNIFICANTLY LESS THAN ANYTHING THAT'S BEEN PRESENTED IN THE LAST 10, 15 YEARS LEVEL OF BONDING IN THIS BUDGET. IT WAS HIGH IN TRANSPORTATION UNDER THE GOVERNOR'S PROPOSAL, BUT OVERALL IT WAS STILL SIGNIFICANTLY LOWER.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

WE TAKE UP THE HIGHWAY FUNDING PLAN NOW WITH CRAIG THOMPSON. HE'S THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE TRANSPORTATION DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION OF WISCONSIN. HE JOINS US BY PHONE AND THANKS A LOT FOR DOING SO.

CRAIG THOMPSON:

THANKS FOR HAVING ME, FREDERICA.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

SO IN ALL THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET GOING TO THE FULL LEGISLATURE, WILL CUT MAJOR HIGHWAY FUNDING BY $350 MILLION. WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO THAT?

CRAIG THOMPSON:

WELL, IT'S DEFINITELY GOING TO BE FELT IN A LOT OF AREAS THROUGHOUT THE STATE. I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANY QUESTION ABOUT THAT. AND WHEN WE DO FINALLY GET AROUND TO FINISHING THOSE PROJECTS, IT WILL BE AT AN INCREASED COST.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

THE HIGHWAY REHABILITATION ALSO TAKES A $100 MILLION HIT. WILL DRIVERS FEEL THE BUMPS OF THAT?

CRAIG THOMPSON:

WELL, YOU KNOW, WITH REHABILITATION, IT REALLY IS -- ENGINEERS WILL TELL YOU IF YOU GET TO THE ROADS AT THE RIGHT TIME, YOU CAN SAVE A LOT OF MONEY IF YOU DON'T WAIT TOO LONG. AND THAT GETS TO BE A FEAR IF WE WAIT TOO LONG IT WILL AGAIN INCREASE OUR COSTS.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE LEVEL OF BONDING THAT PASSED OUT OF THE BUDGET COMMITTEE REDUCED FROM THE GOVERNOR'S ORIGINAL PROPOSAL?

CRAIG THOMPSON:

WELL, I THINK THAT WAS ONE OF THE THINGS THE LEGISLATURE DID THAT WE REALLY DID AGREE WITH, WAS TO TRY TO GET THE BONDING LEVEL TO AN AREA THAT WAS MORE SUSTAINABLE. AND THAT PART I THINK THEY DID DO.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

BUT THE BONDING NOW ENUMERATED STILL REPRESENTS THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF DEBT SERVICE FOR TRANSPORTATION EVER IN THE STATE, AT 20.6%. HOW WORRISOME IS THAT GOING FORWARD?

CRAIG THOMPSON:

WELL, IT IS WORRISOME, WHICH IS WHY IF WE WOULD HAVE GONE ALL THE WAY UP TO THE $1.3 BILLION THAT THE GOVERNOR PROPOSED, IT REALLY WOULD HAVE PUT US BEHIND THE EIGHT BALL. IT WAS GOING TO GO UP SOME I THINK IN THE SECOND YEAR OF THIS BIENNIUM ALMOST NO MATTER WHAT THEY DID. I THINK THE LEGISLATURE REDUCED THAT AMOUNT AS MUCH AS THEY WERE GOING TO. WE JUST WISH THEY WOULD HAVE FOUND OTHER REVENUE TO FILL IN THE REST WITH.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

RIGHT. AND THAT REVENUE PIECE CERTAINLY IS NOT HAPPENING OUT OF THIS PARTICULAR BUDGET. IF YOU COULD HELP ME A LITTLE, THE PROJECTS THAT HAVE BEEN ENUMERATED TO BE DELAYED, INCLUDING, YOU KNOW, THE NORTH PART OF THE ZOO INTERCHANGE. ARE THOSE -- IS THAT A BIG DEAL?

CRAIG THOMPSON:

WELL, I THINK IT'S A REALLY BIG DEAL. THE NORTH LEG OF THE ZOO BEING DELAYED WILL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THAT PART OF THE STATE CLEARLY. SOME OF THE OTHER MAJOR PROJECTS WE'RE NOT CERTAIN YET UNTIL THE DOT DETERMINES THEY KNOW THE DOLLAR AMOUNT BUT I-39/90 IS ONE OF THOSE PROJECTS THAT'S ON THE LIST THAT MAY BE DELAYED. HIGHWAY 441 UP IN THE APPLETON AREA. VERONA ROAD IN THE DANE COUNTY AREA ARE ALL SOME OF THOSE PROJECTS THAT ARE WAITING TO SEE WHAT THEIR FATE IS GOING TO BE.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

NOW, THERE ARE ALREADY RECOMMENDATIONS IN PLACE TO INCREASE REVENUES, BUT AS WE DISCUSSED, THOSE WERE NOT PASSED OUT OF JOINT FINANCE AND SEEM UNLIKELY TO BE PASSED ONCE THIS BUDGET GETS TO THE FLOOR. BUT MAJORITY MEMBERS ON THE BUDGET COMMITTEE SAY THAT WE NEED TO KEEP A CLOSER EYE ON TRANSPORTATION SPENDING. IN OTHER WORDS, BE MORE EFFICIENT ON THE PROJECTS THAT WE DO WORK ON. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE STATE COULD FIX THIS TRANSPORTATION FUNDING CRISIS BY KEEPING A CLOSER EYE ON THE SPENDING SIDE?

CRAIG THOMPSON:

I REALLY DON'T. YOU KNOW, I THINK THERE'S AN AUDIT THAT WAS PUT IN AND I THINK THAT'S GREAT AND WE SHOULD WATCH EVERY PENNY THAT IS SPENT. BUT THERE WAS A STUDY DONE OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS THAT SHOWED THAT WISCONSIN ACTUALLY WAS THE MOST EFFICIENT OF ALL THE STATES IN THE MIDWEST FOR OUR COST PER MILE, BOTH FOR CONSTRUCTION AND FOR MAINTENANCE. SO IT REALLY COMES DOWN TO THE SAME SITUATION MANY STATES ARE FACING, WHICH IS THE REVENUE'S NOT KEEPING UP WITH THE DEMAND AND AT SOME POINT IN TIME YOU HAVE TO ADJUST THAT AMOUNT COMING IN.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

SO WHAT WOULD BE YOUR PREFERENCE IN TERMS OF ADJUSTING THAT AMOUNT OF REVENUE, HOW TO DO THAT?

CRAIG THOMPSON:

WELL, AGAIN, I THINK SOME OF IT, YOU KNOW, IT HAS TO BE POLITICALLY FEASIBLE AS WELL AND THAT'S PART OF WHAT THIS STUDY IS GOING TO DO. THEY'RE ALSO GOING TO LOOK AT TOLLING. BUT THE GAS TAX REMAINS, THERE'S HARDLY ANY ADMINISTRATIVE COST. THERE'VE BEEN STUDIES DONE OF STATES RECENLTY THAT HAVE PASSED THEIR GAS TAX THAT ONLY ABOUT A THIRD OF IT ACTUALLY ENDS UP GOING ON TO THE COST AT THE PUMP. AND YOU ALSO GET PEOPLE FROM OUT OF STATE THAT ARE TRAVELING THROUGH. SO WE THINK THAT IS ONE OF THE MORE EFFICIENT WAYS. BUT YOU CAN OBVIOUSLY LOOK AT REGISTRATION FEES AS WELL. WE'RE ONE OF THE LOWEST IN THE COUNTRY IN THAT. AND SOME HAVE TALKED ABOUT VEHICLE MILES TRAVELED OR, AGAIN, TOLLING. THEY ALL WORK IN TERMS OF USER FEES. IT COMES DOWN TO WHAT PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT.

FREDERICA FREYBERG:

WE LEAVE IT THERE. THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME ON THIS.

CRAIG THOMPSON:

THANKS, FREDERICA.

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