Sunday, January 15, 2006

Paving the State

Yah, hey:

"We are not partisan," Stevens [Wisconsin Roadbuilders Ass'n.] said. "There is no such thing as a Democratic road or a Republican road. There's just Wisconsin roads."

A LOT of Wisconsin roads.

In a very good article, Patrick Marley tries to sort it all out and furthers a discussion about the Wisconsin highway-creation/maintenance monster.

One of the major points:

Since 1990, lawmakers have approved an increase of more than 140% in construction - pushing it from $458 million to $1.1 billion a year. Spending on maintenance grew by less than 40%, from $119.5 million to $165.5 million.

After adjusting for inflation, the construction budget saw a 68% boost, while the maintenance budget declined by more than 6%, according to Department of Transportation figures.

In the world according to John Gard, this is good:

Gard, the Assembly speaker, said donations were not linked to increased spending on roads, adding that lawmakers spend more on highways because they help spur the economy.

"One of the core responsibilities of government is infrastructure, and most of our constituents demand an aggressive approach to job growth," he said.

However, one also gets a sense that Gard is at least a little bit paranoid:

Gard, who is running for the U.S. House, noted that he has found himself in the cross hairs of the Forest County Potawatomi and other tribes for his successful lawsuit against Doyle over casino compacts the governor signed with the tribes.

Another way to read that: "We must pave new roads (to hell with maintenance) so that the roadbuilders will contribute to our campaigns."

Yah, John.

Look, boys and girls: if you can't or won't pay for the upkeep, why bother?

But this one is the "money" quote:

Gard, the Assembly speaker, said donations were not linked to increased spending on roads, adding that lawmakers spend more on highways because they help spur the economy.

Maybe. There are cross-currents here. By and large, economic development is more a result of succesful business ideas. A successful business will attract suppliers and other, like-minded businesses, to their area (that's why there is such a place as "Silicon Valley," or why lower Michigan/Northern Ohio has so many automotive suppliers.)

Gard's thesis is different: he maintains that building a road will (in effect) attract entrepreneurs. In some cases, he's right. The problem is that (as we know so very well) State spending requires State taxation; and State taxation eventually drives out the money.

In other words, Gard thinks that the State can and will determine business success. He's certainly not alone; the Big Government class of politicians and bureaucrats have been saying that for years.

The question is: where is the balance point?

1 comment:

M.Z. Forrest said...

Roads aid economic development.

Dear Mr. Gard,
Today we are in the year 2006. This is not 1950. There is not a single person in this state further than 5 miles from a paved road. You may wish to pursue other avenues for economic development.