As we reported the other day Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget is a direct assault on biking in at least three of its provisions. The governor would cut $2 million from the Transportation Alternatives Program, gut the Stewardship Fund used to buy land for trails among other public purposes, and repeal our state’s successful Complete Streets law.
The Bike Fed is hard at work on all three fronts. Today we made a move on the Complete Streets issue by asking the chairs of the powerful Joint Finance Committee to pull the governor’s language repealing the law from the budget.
The Finance Committee has a long tradition, going back a couple of decades, of weeding out policy items that have no business in the budget bill and removing them all in one omnibus amendment. They ask the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau to help them identify those items, so we’ve flagged this issue for the Fiscal Bureau as well.
In our letter to Joint Finance Co-Chairs Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) we pointed out that the Complete Streets law is a policy of longstanding that has worked well. If the governor or legislators want to repeal or amend the law they should do so in a separate bill. The Bike Fed would be happy to defend the law or work constructively to change it if a case can be made that this is necessary.
But by putting such a policy change in the budget the governor is trying to avoid making a case for the law’s repeal. Because the budget must pass, if the repeal language isn’t removed, it will become law with little study or debate. Moreover, the budget is so big that an issue like this can get lost amid cuts to the university and other state agencies, education funding and so many other issues.
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» Governor Walker Slashes Bicycling from State Budget
Pulling the Complete Streets repeal language from the budget and asking the governor to introduce it in a separate bill where it can be studied and debated in the full light of day is a challenge the Bike Fund would be happy to meet. The law has been a great success and we would be eager to tell its story.
But leaving the provision in a dark recess of the huge budget bill guarantees that this important issue won’t get the attention it deserves. That would be bad policy-making and bad government.
Our letter to Sen. Darling and Rep. Nygren is below. You can help by contacting them and asking them to honor the Bike Fed’s request to remove the Complete Streets repeal from the budget.
In his proposed 2015-17 state budget Governor Walker has included language that would repeal Wisconsin’s successful “Complete Streets” program. You can find the language in Sec. 84.01(35), Wis. Stats.
The Wisconsin Bike Fed opposes the governor’s action. Moreover, we believe that this is an example of a policy item, which the Joint Finance Committee routinely and correctly dismisses from the budget in an omnibus amendment. We are writing today on behalf of our 4,600 individual and business members throughout the state to ask that you include the governor’s Complete Streets repeal among items that you eliminate from the budget.
Complete Streets has been in place for many years and it has functioned very well. The law essentially requires that road projects involving state or federal funds take into account facilities to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The law and its related administrative rule (TRANS 75) provide many opportunities to gain an exception to this requirement if the cost would be prohibitive, the projected use would be light or for other reasons.
If the governor believes the law is flawed in some way he can have legislation introduced to repeal or change it. The Bike Fed would be happy to make our case in favor of the law or work with the governor and interested legislators in amending it if that is needed. But in any event this should be debated outside of the budget process.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.