January 2017 News & JFI Update 1/26/2017
Just Fix It Update 
WisDOT Audit Won't Close $1 Billion Funding Gap

Today, the Legislative Audit Bureau released its evaluation of the state highway program. 

We are in the process of going through the hundred-plus page report.  However, here are the key takeaways at this point:
  • Wisconsin’s highway conditions have deteriorated over the last decade.  
  • Our highway conditions are now significantly worse than any of our neighbors in the Midwest and the national average.
  • The audit highlights an issue with the department’s cost estimation procedures on major highway projects which are years in the works.
  • The audit found some potential savings, but even if fully realized, these savings would not come close to solving Wisconsin’s billion dollar funding shortfall. 
TDA supported the legislature’s call for this audit as taxpayers need to be sure every one of their hard-earner dollars is being spent efficiently.

Click here for the audit and here for TDA's statement on the audit.

Good News on Revenue Front, Framework for Possible Deal

Some good news on Wisconsin’s revenue front has allowed the Assembly Republican Caucus to put forth the broad outlines of a plan to begin to address Wisconsin’s transportation funding challenge. They are calling for at least a $300 million increase in transportation revenue with a corresponding amount of tax relief in other areas of the state's budget.

Governor Walker has said repeatedly he would not support increasing taxes or fees to pay for transportation without reductions to other taxes.

According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, approximately $2 billion of additional general fund revenue will be available in 2017-19.  

28 Southeastern Wisconsin Leaders Write Letter to Joint Finance Committee

While appreciative of statements in support of increased general transportation aid to local governments, these leaders from southeastern Wisconsin cities and villages wrote that the delay of needed improvements to the interstate highway system in Southeast Wisconsin will result in economic harm not only to the region, but the entire state.

Click the image on the right to read the letter and see the signatories.

Other Recent Media Coverage (since last update)
Click here for a complete listing. 

Wisconsin’s transportation-funding problem: Possible solutions, and how we got here
Wisconsin State Journal
January 22, 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial: State roads can’t rely on a Trump rescue
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 19, 2017

Federal agency warns state on road plan
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 15, 2017

Transportation the Focus on New 414Ward Show
Milwaukee TMJ4
January 15, 2017

Public policy leaders and lawmakers meet to discuss transportation funding gap
Wisconsin Public Radio
January 11, 2017

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is on record in support of a gas tax increase
UpFront with Mike Gousha
January 8, 2017

Valders Journal Editorial: State needs strong road funding plans
Valders Journal
January 5, 2017

Janesville Gazette Editorial: News flash – Fixing roads costs money
Janesville Gazette
January 3, 2017

Franzen: Time to deal with Wisconsin’s road crisis
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
December 30, 2016

Too Big to Fix?
January 11, 2017

Too big to fail was a buzz phrase that we all became too familiar with about a decade ago. It is, of course, referring to the financial crisis of the late 2000s when the U.S. government disbursed $700 billion to save large companies under the theory that they were so vital to the U.S. economy that it would be disastrous if they went bankrupt.

In Wisconsin we seem to have a new concept being floated by some: Too big to fix. Under this theory, Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure has fallen into such serious disrepair that it would require a tax increase so massive as to throw a wet blanket on the economy. So the wiser course, according to this theory, is to do nothing. Because taking the third roughest roads in the country and letting them deteriorate further will have no impact on the economy …read more

News from around the Nation
Tennessee’s Republican Governor Seeks Gas Tax Hike as Part of Plan to Build Economy

Gov. Bill Haslam recently announced a comprehensive plan to increase investment in transportation while cutting taxes on food and manufacturing.

“Under the conservative fiscal leadership of the General Assembly and this administration, state government is smaller, $500 million in recurring costs have been cut out of the state’s operating budget, and together we’ve cut taxes by $270 million annually,” Haslam said. “Because we are a smaller, less tax reliant state government, it is time to build on the vision of what the future of Tennessee looks like and requires. This proposal is the next step in the conversation about how we’re going to position the state to address expected growth, maintain Tennessee’s economic momentum and remain competitive as we continue recruiting high quality jobs.”

This plan generates $278 million in new transportation revenue annually and keeps the state’s transportation network debt-free for the next generation while delivering 962 projects across all 95 counties. The cost to the average Tennessee road user will be $4.17 a month. 

Cities will receive an additional $39 million, and counties will receive an additional $78 million for local projects, allowing them to keep property and other local taxes low. 

Plan details
  • Increases the road user fee by 7 cents a gallon for gas and 12 cents a gallon for diesel.
  • Increases car registration fees by $5 for the average passenger vehicle.
  • Places a $100 annual fee on electric vehicles and increases charges on vehicles using alternative fuels.
  • Includes a 3 percent charge on rental cars.
  • Indexes (but caps) fuel taxes to the Consumer Price Index to keep up with the rate of inflation.
  • Allows municipalities, only if approved by local voters through referendum, to impose a surcharge on their sales tax rate that would be solely dedicated to public transit projects.
Indiana: Transportation a Top Budget Issue, $1.2 billion Plan Proposed 

Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) State of the State Address delivered January 17, highlighted transportation infrastructure improvements as one of the five pillars of his upcoming legislative agenda.

“The fact is, existing sources of revenue are just not keeping up,” said Holcomb. “I’m a believer that every time you ask a taxpayer for a dollar, you better be darn sure you need it and are going to use it effectively for its intended purpose. And here’s a case that if we ask Hoosiers to invest a little more, to meet the need, the return is going to be well worth it.”

The governor’s address came approximately two weeks after Indiana House Republicans put forth a long-term road funding plan. The plan which would provide $1.2 billion in additional revenue each year includes:
  • A 10 cent gas increase, indexed to CPI.
  • $15 annual “transportation infrastructure improvement” vehicle fee.
  • $150 annual electric vehicle fee.
  • Doubling of the alternative fuel decal fee.
  • All revenue from the state’s 7 percent sales tax on gasoline, only one-seventh of which is currently allocated for roads, would be used entirely for infrastructure starting in 2021. 
Report Identifies Almost $1 Trillion in Needed Transportation Investment

In one of his last actions as secretary of the USDOT, Anthony Foxx released a new report on the state of the nation’s transportation infrastructure.  The congressionally mandated report, 2015 Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges and Transit: Conditions and Performance, confirms the need for an additional $926 billion investment in U.S. highway and transit systems.  

“We have an infrastructure system that is fundamental to the nation’s economic health, and it needs greater attention and resources,” said Secretary Foxx. “Improving our nation’s roads, bridges, and transit helps create jobs, connects communities and ensures that our nation is equipped for the future.”

Key findings include:

  • $836 billion backlog in capital highway and bridge investment.
  • Spending from all levels of government is 35.5 percent less than what is needed to improve highways and bridges.
  • $89 billion in transit system needs.
  • At current levels of spending on transit, overall transit system conditions are expected to decline over the next 20 years.

The conditions and performance report is submitted to Congress biennially.  

Association News
CBG Winter Conference February 9-10, 2017

Click here to see the agenda.

RSVP: [email protected] or 608-240-4178

COST: Conference, cocktail reception and breakfast hosted by CBG for all signatory contractors, trade representatives and government officials. Travel, other meals and hotel costs not provided by CBG.

LOCATION: Kalahari Resort & Convention Center, 1305 Kalahari Drive, Wisconsin Dells, WI 53965 Seminars: Conference Room 3 (both days) Cocktail Reception & Breakfast: Conference Room 4

HOTEL: A limited number of rooms available at a discounted rate at the Kalahari on Wednesday 2/8 and Thursday 2/9. Call 877-253-5466 to book a room and ask for the Construction Business Group room block.
The American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation are partnering for the ninth consecutive year to present the 2017 Transportation Improvement Conference. This year’s theme is “Facing and Embracing the Future Together.”

The conference brings together the department and consulting engineering community for two days of transportation-related professional development programming and networking opportunities. The conference, including the February 28 Networking Reception, is open to registered attendees only.  

Click here for more information and to register online. To register offline download the registration form