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Dunn County asks state to increase transportation funding

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE  —  If the roads you drive on seem like they are getting worse — they probably are.

The Dunn County Board approved a resolution at the July 23 meeting asking the state legislature and Governor Scott Walker to find a sustainable solution to fund Wisconsin’s transportation system.

The sustainable solution would include responsibly borrowing money to fix roads along with increases in user fees, such as an increased gasoline tax and increased vehicle registration fees.

According to the resolution, transportation spending in the state has declined by almost $50 per person since the year 2000.

Transportation spending was $275 per person in 2000 and dropped to $227 per person in 2012, the resolution notes.

The poor condition of Wisconsin’s roads places the state in the bottom one-third of states, according to the resolution.

In other words — 33 other states have better roads, and Wisconsin is among the 17 states that have worse roads.

According to Dunn County’s resolution, only two states experienced smaller increases in local transportation spending than Wisconsin from 2000 to 2011.

In his 2015-2017 budget proposal, Governor Walker wanted to borrow $1.3 billion for roads, and the legislature approved borrowing $850 million for roads.

By relying on borrowed money to fix roads, more of the state gas tax and vehicle registration fees paid by state residents goes toward paying interest on the loans rather than for fixing roads, the county board’s resolution notes.

Levy limits put in place by the state legislature also do not allow local governments to increase property taxes to offset the decrease in state funding for roads, the resolution says.

Wisconsin motorists pay less in gas tax and registration fees than neighboring states, and the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission appointed by the governor and the legislature has determined that if Wisconsin does not increase user fees, state and local roads will deteriorate significantly over the next ten years.

The resolution notes that according to a national non-profit research group, in 2013, there were 347 fatalities on rural roads in Wisconsin.

The Dunn County Board unanimously approved the resolution on transportation funding.