We’ve been watching how governors around the country are getting extra “creative” as they try to keep their transportation budgets solvent. Yesterday we witnessed an excise tax on bicycles floated in Washington State.
But the award for the wildest funding scheme may go to renowned highway spender Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, who wants to raise $6 billion for the state’s roads by selling 37 publicly owned power plants. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported this week on Walker’s bizarre plan keep the highway money flowing, and send the bill to utility customers:
The move could also have the unexpected effect of linking the prices paid by some utility customers to the financing of the state’s road system. Bonds for the road work would go through even if the state property was not ultimately sold.
What are these projects that are so tremendously important the state’s assets must be sold to pay for them?
Well, Wisconsin is going to blow a considerable chunk of that change on a project called the Zoo Interchange, outside of Milwaukee. This $1.7 billion — yes, billion with a “b” — project would be one of the most expensive interchanges ever built. Walker specifically mentioned that it was one of his two top priorities in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.
Last year a coalition of nonprofit groups in Milwaukee filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state, charging that the project was discriminatory because it does nothing for transit-dependent Milwaukee residents. Dennis Grzezinski, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the Zoo Interchange is “just about the most expensive approach they could have taken.”
This from the same guy who couldn’t stomach passenger rail in his state because it would require a subsidy of a few million dollars a year.
Sad to say, Wisconsin’s plan is not much worse than the ones being promoted in other parts of the Midwest.