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Wisconsin Infrastructure Spending Plummets

The St. Croix Crossing Bridge now under construction will connect Oak Park Heights, Minn. and St. Joseph, Wis. It's one of the few infrastructure projects actually moving forward in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation)
The St. Croix Crossing Bridge now under construction will connect Oak Park Heights, Minn. and St. Joseph, Wis. It's one of the few infrastructure projects actually moving forward in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Dept. of Transportation)
March 3, 2016

MADISON, Wis. – A new report from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project says state and local governments are neglecting to make investments in infrastructure in the Badger State.

This includes such essentials as schools, roads and water supply.

State spending on infrastructure fell to a 30-year low in 2014, according to the author of the report, Jon Peacock. He says Wisconsin now ranks 41st in the nation in infrastructure spending.

"Looking at it another way, since 2002, the drop in infrastructure spending in Wisconsin has been faster than in all but six other states," he points out.

The report says in 2002, Wisconsin was above the national average in the percentage of gross domestic product spent for infrastructure improvement at the state and local level. Among neighboring states, only Michigan had a larger decline in infrastructure spending than Wisconsin.

According to Peacock, this decline is having a tangible impact on the quality of life in Wisconsin.

"It means poor quality schools for our children, and worsening and erosion in the quality of our transportation system, and like a lot of the rest of the other country we also have work to do to make our water systems safer," he maintains.

Citing a recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Peacock says the decline in infrastructure spending from 2002 to 2013 was 31 percent, nearly double the national average of 17 percent.

Peacock suggests that the state should strongly consider raising user fees, such as the gasoline tax, to start to turn things around.

"We also have to stop putting so many impediments in the way of local officials that keep them from making investments in things like schools and road repairs,” he stresses. “The state legislature has created a lot of hurdles for local officials and we're doing too much second-guessing."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI