Despite being contacted by perhaps 600 citizens asking him for a veto, Gov. Scott Walker this evening left intact state budget language that will make bike trails and lanes as well as sidewalks more costly and more complicated if not impossible altogether.
The Bike Fed has been fighting language inserted a week and a half ago by the Joint Finance Committee. That language prohibits the state and local government from using their powers of eminent domain to build recreational trails, bike lanes and ways and pedestrian ways. The provision was buried inside a 19 page amendment passed late that evening without explanation or debate and without identifying a legislative author.
It survived attempts that we pushed for in the Assembly and Senate to take it out. Then we asked the governor to veto the language. He did not and he has offered no explanation. He’ll sign the budget tomorrow, making 99 vetoes, but not this one.
So, this provision was introduced, approved by a committee, passed by two houses and approved by the governor and no one has stepped up to take responsibility for it, explain why they think it’s needed or answer a single question from a concerned citizen or local official.
And here’s an even greater irony. Walker vetoed another budget amendment that would have stripped local governments of their ability to regulate quarries. In his veto message he said that he objected to, “inserting a major policy item into the budget without sufficient time to debate its merits.” Of course, he’s right. So, why doesn’t that apply to stripping local governments of a power they’ve had since statehood to condemn land when necessary for certain public rights of way?
Our thanks go out to the League of American Bicyclists, People for Bikes, the Rails to Trails Conservancy, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, many local governments and to hundreds of Bike Fed members who contacted their legislators and the governor when we asked them to.
This would be easier to accept if it had been introduced as a regular bill, if the author had put his or her name on it and explained it and answered questions — in short if we had had a transparent process. We are big enough to take a loss in a fair fight where our arguments just don’t carry the day. But that’s not what this was. This was politics at its worst.