February 2018 News & JFI Update  2/27/2018
2018 Fly-in
May 22-24

TDA and the Minnesota Transportation Alliance have planned a joint Fly-in. It is really a merging of the best of the two state events. This is a great opportunity to try something new and meet transportation advocates from a neighboring state.

With the transportation debate heating up in DC, May will be the perfect time to go educate the Wisconsin delegation about the needs back home.
Don't wait to make your plans! Hotel space is limited.

Click  here  for the event brochure and  here  to register online.
Just Fix It Update
Wisconsin State Journal Editorial: Yes, Please, Increase the Gas Tax for Better Wisconsin Roads

February 7, 2018

Gov. Scott Walker last week said he’s open to raising Wisconsin’s gas tax for the first time in more than a decade.

That’s good, because Wisconsin’s transportation system definitely needs more investment. Wisconsin’s roads are the worst in the Midwest, according to a state audit, and nearly the worst in the nation.

We just hope the governor is serious this time about collecting more revenue for highway repairs and improvements. In the past, he hasn’t followed through — even when his demand to offset any increase with reductions in other state taxes has been granted.

Gov. Walker sees an opportunity for more money from the federal government in President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion plan to improve America’s infrastructure. As outlined in his recent State of the Union speech, President Trump envisions $200 billion in higher federal spending on transportation needs, with the rest of the $1.5 trillion coming from state, local and private sources.

Gov. Walker told reporters last week he’s willing to raise the state’s gas tax if that will help leverage more money from the federal government for construction work here in Wisconsin. But he added his familiar caveat that any increase in fees on motorists must be offset by tax cuts elsewhere.

That last requirement should be easy to fulfill. After all, the governor just proposed a $100-per-child tax credit in his recent State of the State speech. And if that isn’t enough, the governor during his speech touted $8 billion in tax cuts he has delivered during his two terms in office. Most of those savings went to manufacturers and industry. But some went to ordinary people who got breaks on their income and property taxes. Read more
Why Scott Walker, in Real Terms, has Spent Less on Transportation than his Democratic Predecessor

PolitiFact Wisconsin
By Tom Kertscher on Tuesday, February 6th

I n his Jan. 24, 2018, State of the State speech, something of a launching pad for his run for a third term as governor, Republican Scott Walker drew contrasts between himself and his predecessor, Democrat Jim Doyle.

Despite criticism for not spending more on transportation, Walker nevertheless claimed he’s done better than Doyle, stating:

"We invested" in our transportation system "$24 billion over eight years. That’s $3 billion more than what former Governor Jim Doyle spent on transportation over the same period of time."

Walker has made the same claim for at least 11 months, on Twitter, in a weekly radio address, in media interviews and in public appearances.

The numbers

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau told us it’s possible to reach Walker’s figures by considering the total raw dollars put toward transportation programs, including a double-count of the principal in terms of money borrowed.

That is, Walker’s method counts the principal at the time money was borrowed, and counts it again when repayments are made on that debt. That method shows Walker’s eight years of DOT funding, in raw dollars, including bonding and subsequent debt service payments, at $25.8 billion -- $3.4 billion more than Doyle.

But besides doing the double counting, that measure also fails to take into account inflation.

So, it is problematic in two ways.

Here are the fiscal bureau numbers without the double counting but including inflation:
Those figures show that Doyle, in real dollars, spent more on transportation than Walker has.

Let’s give this one a spin. Read more
Tolling in the News

At a Wisconsin Counties Association meeting Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald came out in favor of tolling as the way to address Wisconsin's transportation funding challenges. "The only way that we are going to be able to do this and the only way that makes sense is open road tolling," Fitzgerald said.

This statement spurred press coverage around the state and two editorials, one in favor and one opposed.

By former WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 8

By Robert W. Poole Jr., Reason Foundation and Mike Nichols, Badger Institute
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 14

TDA's Craig Thompson and Mark Gottlieb
Wisconsin Public Radio
Madison Metro Struggles to Make Capital Replacements and Plan for Future, Funding the Issue

Submitted by Madison Metro

For over 10 years, federal funding for public highways, rail and transit has not kept pace with the need for investment in infrastructure, both to address critical replacement plans as well as expansion. In Madison, discretionary federal funding has not kept pace with needs. In Wisconsin, since the 1990’s discretionary transit funding has been used to keep pace with basic replacement needs, as the standard federal formula resulted in Wisconsin getting 1% of federal funding despite having about 2% of the country’s population. This is because the formulas take population density into account, so higher density states get a higher share of the funding. In the past, discretionary federal funding helped to address this imbalance in the federal funding formula. More recently, Congress has upset this balance by moving to eliminate discretionary funding without a commensurate update to the overall funding formula.
Most recently, Metro benefited from using federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funding to replace buses, a source which allows a region to allocate these dollars based on local priorities to roads, bicycles, or transit. 

For 3 years Metro used STP funding to stay on top of its basic replacement needs of 15 buses per year. In 2010 an injection of federal stimulus funding allowed Metro to stay on course with its basic capital replacement needs. And, since that time, the state Department of Transportation published a study that proposed regional transportation funding and state funded programs for transit infrastructure investments. None of those proposals have been adopted.

Metro must now rely on only 50% federal funding for its infrastructure, rather than the historic 80%. In turn, these important transportation needs have not been met by the state, local property tax payers will now increase their share of support from 20% to 50% of costs. 

Recently approved by the Madison Common Council through its budget process, this change increases the local property tax payers share of Metro’s capital funding by $3 million in 2018 and by $27 million over the full six years.

Metro is at a once-in-a-generation point where in order to plan for the future by building a satellite garage to meet capacity needs, implement bus rapid transit to improve travel time and be a force for economic development in our community, and develop an intermodal bus facility for safe and attractive use by both city and inter-city buses, some sort of regional transit funding source must be identified, because solutions do not appear to be coming from the state or national level. Our public transportation funding needs, particularly for capital investments, will need to be solved locally with almost all of that burden falling on local property tax payers.
News Around the Nation
New Gas Tax to Raise Nearly $150 Million in 2018 to Fix SC’s Crumbling Roads

Millions of dollars are flowing into state coffers to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads and bridges from the state’s higher gas tax that took effect July 1, officials said Wednesday.

The S.C. Department of Transportation expects roughly $149 million in new money this year, agency head Christy Hall told a state Senate panel Wednesday.

“We are very focused and very grateful” to put the new dollars to work, Hall said, adding the agency has about $3 billion in work on more than 3,200 road projects underway or in the pipeline.

Last year – after more than two years of debate – the Legislature overrode Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of a bill that raised the state’s 16.75-cent-a-gallon gas tax by two cents a year for six years, a total of 12 cents. It also raised other driving fees to fix the state’s roads.

The new law also includes about $100 million in tax breaks.

Once fully phased in, the new law is expected to bring in about $630 million a year for road repairs. Read more
Congress Reaches Two-Year Budget Deal

Early in February, Congress approved a two-year budget deal and a six-week stopgap funding bill that keeps funding for most programs at 2017 levels through March 23 to give Congress time to pass an appropriations measure.

​The budget deal includes $20 billion in additional funding for infrastructure but provides no details on how those dollars would be distributed among infrastructure categories.

The measure also eliminates spending caps (sequester) for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 that would have resulted in across the board reductions in certain types of federal funding for transportation and other programs.

The budget deal increases total federal spending by $300 billion over the next two years. It is reported defense spending will increase by $80 billion in the current fiscal year, and another $85 billion in fiscal year 2019. Meanwhile, domestic spending will grow by $63 billion in the current year, and $68 billion next year.  
Trump Infrastructure Investment Plan Released

President Trump released his long-awaited infrastructure investment plan February 12. As expected the plan proposes $200 billion in new federal grants and loans over 10 years to leverage $1.5 trillion in total project spending nationwide.

The plan doesn’t outline how the proposed $200 billion in incremental federal investment will be funded. Nor does it provide a plan to stabilize the federal Highway Trust Fund, which has relied on infusions from the General Fund to cover trust fund shortfalls for over a decade.

Much of this plan was leaked last month, so the overall framework of the plan was known. However, the final proposal also includes many measures to streamline and reform processes.

Despite bipartisan and growing public support for infrastructure investment, the path forward for this plan in an election year is uncertain.
AEM Poll: 81% Want Congress to Pass Infrastructure Bill in 2018

Americans who watched President Trump’s State of the Union Address want action on infrastructure this year—and they want Democrats to help.

According to a new poll sponsored by AEM, an overwhelming majority (81 percent) of SOTU viewers said it is important to them that Congress passes an infrastructure bill this year.

Additionally, eight-in-ten SOTU viewers – including two-thirds (67 percent) of Democrats who watched President Trump’s address – said that congressional Democrats should work with President Trump and Republicans in Congress to pass an infrastructure bill.

“This poll clearly shows that there is strong and bipartisan support for Congress to take on infrastructure now,” said AEM President Dennis Slater. “It is time for Washington to get to work, and introduce legislation to make President Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan a reality.” Read more
Association News
Transportation Improvement Conference
March 6 - 7
Glacier Canyon Lodge, Wisconsin Dells

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation are partnering for the tenth consecutive year to present the 2018 Transportation Improvement Conference. This year’s theme is “A Spectrum of Opportunities.” The conference brings together the department and consulting engineering community for two days of transportation-related professional development programming and networking opportunities.

Click here  for more information.
Save these Dates
  • 2018 Fly-in: May 22-24
  • 2018 fall forums: September & October (to be announced)
  • 2018 Annual Meeting: Wednesday, November 14