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As I See It

Audit could solve road funding debate



What are we getting for our money? We don’t even know. We do know that we spend a lot on transportation in Wisconsin. Transportation spending totals about $6 billion in Wisconsin, but that hasn’t been enough to fix all our roads. Governor Walker has proposed borrowing an additional $1.3 billion to pay for new roads, but lawmakers, even those in his own party, aren’t ready to take on that much debt and that is holding up passage of a new state budget. But maybe we don’t need to spend more money to get good roads. We won’t know unless the legislature orders a complete audit of the Department of Transportation, last done way back in 1997. We do know that part of what is driving up transportation costs is the increased reliance on private firms to do the engineering work. In 1987, only 8% of engineering costs was outsourced to private firms. Now that is up to about 75%. That’s despite the fact that the most recent state budget increased DOT staffing by more than 150 positions. And those private engineers are more expensive than having DOT employees do the work. It is estimated costs per project rise by up to 68% when the state hires private consultants. Legislators should order the Legislative Audit Bureau to conduct a complete audit of the DOT. We just may find we have the money we need to pay for roads, if we just spend that money more wisely.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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