After a month of delays the state budget is moving again. Yesterday the Joint Finance Committee completed its work on the 2015-2017 spending plan.
Thanks so much to all our members who contacted the committee and their own legislators since the budget was introduced back in February. We scored some victories:
- We beat the bike tax!
- We restored two-thirds of the funding for state trail development!
But we were not able to restore the $2 million that Governor Scott Walker cut from the Transportation Alternatives Program. This was a tall order given that Joint Finance wound up cutting $800 million from the highway budget.
Still in play is Complete Streets. Joint Finance rejected a Democratic motion on transportation a part of which was Rep. Chris Taylor’s impassioned defense of Complete Streets. Instead the committee passed a rather convoluted motion which repeals our law, but applies the federal language requiring “due consideration” for cyclists and pedestrians to state projects. That in itself would be something of a victory except that they went on to require that local governments authorize any bike and ped installations before the state DOT includes them.
That last provision is a step back, perhaps even worse than full out repeal, because it would imply that the DOT would have to jump through an additional hoop to do bike and ped projects even if the department wanted to do it on its own. Nonetheless, it was offered by Republican legislators who were trying to work out compromises with their colleagues in an effort to salvage some of the law. It was well-intentioned but they might not have thought it through and so we’ve got a chance to fix it as we progress through the rest of the process.
The budget now moves on to the Assembly, where we’ll try to get the Joint Finance language improved. And the Senate is a whole different can of worms as the budget itself may not have the votes to pass because of other issues.
All of which is to say it’s very much the constantly changing flexible process it always is and it’s not yet quite over. Stay tuned.
But for all of you who have contacted your elected officials during this process you helped us make democracy work. The results aren’t always everything we want but that’s our system. We live to fight another day. Have a great Independence Day. It looks like it will be a great weekend for a ride!