Here’s another installment of our series on key governor’s races. Here’s the news from Wisconsin and Ohio. Check out our previous coverage of California, Texas, Maryland, Colorado, and Tennessee. Let them serve as a reminder to vote on Tuesday.
“I’m Scott Walker. And if I’m elected as your next governor, we’ll stop this train.”
GOP's Scott Walker wants to knock out HSR in Wisconsin. Image: TPM
That’s the rhetoric from Wisconsin’s Republican gubernatorial hopeful. He calls the high-speed rail line planned to link Madison and Milwaukee a “boondoggle,” estimated to cost Wisconsin $7 million to $10 million dollars a year in operating costs. Stopping the rail line – which is eventually meant to link Chicago to Minneapolis – would mean sending $810 million in federal rail construction funds back to Washington. Walker says President Obama’s “radical environmental agenda” is killing jobs. [PDF]
As much as $100 million could already have been spent on the rail line by the time Walker would take office. But he says that won’t stop him from putting the brakes on it. He’s suggested using the money for other transportation projects, but the federal grant is earmarked for rail. If Wisconsin doesn’t want it, some other state will claim it.
Walker has years of experience fighting transit. As Milwaukee County Executive, he’s tried to cut funding for buses and by refusing to allocate more funding to transit, he forced a choice between service cuts and fare hikes.
Democrat Tom Barrett would keep the trains rolling. Image: Cap Times
His Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, supports the rail project as part of his broader promotion of public transportation. Barrett has a 98 percent lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters. He’s pushed for clean sources of energy and worked to convert the city’s vehicle fleet to hybrid and biodiesel cars.
Wisconsin’s transportation budget comes from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. It’s frequently been raided – to the tune of $1.3 billion over the last eight years – to pay for unrelated projects. Meanwhile, the state has documented almost $700 million in annual unmet transportation needs.
Both candidates are against the raids, and Republican Walker even goes so far as to support a constitutional amendment banning such behavior. But the candidates’ proposed solutions to the crumbling infrastructure are worlds apart. Walker’s a roads-and-bridges guy. Barrett says increasing transit use will take the burden off roads and reduce wear and tear on highways.
Walker has also suggested re-routing sales tax revenue from new vehicle purchases to the transportation fund. That could add up to about half a billion dollars. (However, he wants to repeal the corporate income tax, which brings in about $1.6 billion every two years. How that will help balance the budget is anybody’s guess.)