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Consultant wants to fight for road funds

State allocation is not fair to local projects

Oct. 3, 2012

Thiensville - A political consultant working to change Wisconsin policy on funding for local roadway construction encouraged village officials to weigh in on the issue this week.

Edward Huck has been involved with an initiative known as Fair Share for Local Roads. The advocacy group asserts not enough state dollars are being allocated toward the various streets that serve residents across the state on a daily basis.

Ninety percent of Wisconsin's roadways are considered local and carry 40 percent of the state's overall traffic on any given day. The balance of Wisconsin's roadways are state highways and the federal interstate system.

But Huck takes aim at the state's 2012 segregated transportation fund, which allocates 30 percent toward local road projects. In the early 1990s, the state had allocated 40 percent toward local road projects.

This year, municipalities were given state aid for road construction projects based on their designation. Unincorporated townships receive 37 percent in assistance, while county projects are privy to a 20-percent reimbursement. Cities and villages receive 17 percent in funding.

"It's creating a political crisis for local governments," Huck said.

While highways and the interstate system are important mechanisms for commerce, Huck argues the side municipal roads are equally important since truck drivers oftentimes need to use the modes of transportation to deliver items to stores and warehouses.

Huck also has criticized state politicians for mounting debt associated with road construction projects. To date, the state has taken out $781 million in debt service to fund work that has already been committed.

"We've been on a highway spending binge in this state for 15 years, and it should be over," Huck said. "I'm not here to tell you what to do, but I'm here to say this is a very serious issue."

According to state officials, borrowing has been necessary because of a decline in income from road user fees that have come through gasoline taxes and vehicle registration. Overall driving throughout the state is down, and gasoline has been used less from years past because of fuel efficient vehicles.

Organizers behind Fair Share for Local Roads are proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would alter how road construction is allocated to municipalities. As proposed, it would call on the state to give half of its user fee revenue to local governments to assist with road construction costs.

The Thiensville Village Board was presented with a draft version of an ordinance in support of the proposal, but officials did not take any action during a meeting Monday.

Village President Van Mobley said he believed adoption of a resolution could be premature at this point.

"But thank you for bringing this to our attention," Mobley said to Huck. "I certainly think this is a concern."

Mobley said he will continue to investigate further and called on village staff to assist him with the effort. Dialogue with local state lawmakers is among the efforts that will be pursued.

"As a board, we are focused on the interests of Thiensville," Mobley said. "I wouldn't want to do anything until I understand fully how we can best advance the interests of this community."

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