LFB Memo Shows Budget Shifts up to $383 Million from Intended Purposes
When Scott Walker was running for office three years ago, he vowed to “end the practice of raiding segregated state funds to pay for other programs.” Walker added, “If taxpayer revenue is collected for a specific purpose such as building and maintaining roads, it should be used for that purpose and that purpose only.”
What constitutes a “fund raid” is a subjective matter, which seems to depend in part on the beholder’s opinions about the importance of the funding being shifting or “raided” and also on how that funding source is labeled. Putting semantics aside, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau prepares a summary of budget provisions that shift sources of revenue with the intent of using those funding sources “for purposes other than those for which the fund has traditionally been used.” A Fiscal Bureau memo issued in mid-June tallied 14 such funding transfers, which authorize the shifting of up to $383 million. Read more
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) meets again this week on Thursday, May 23, starting at 10:00 in Room 412 E. Some of the major areas coming up on Thursday are the Department of Justice, DOT, and the UW System. (It appears that the committee will not meet on Friday, May 24.)
A full list of the items on the May 23 agenda can be found here, with links to each of the papers. The outline below includes links to a few of the many Legislative Fiscal Bureau papers:
- Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce (Paper #392)
- GPS Tracking Grant Program for Individuals Subject to Domestic Abuse or Harassment Restraining Orders or Injunctions (Paper #415)
- Transfer the Office of Justice Assistance (Paper #405)
- DNA Collection at Arrest and the DNA Analysis Surcharge (Paper #410)
- Mass Transit Operating Assistance — Convert Funding to GPR and Mass Transit Funding Level (Paper #640)
- Major Highway Development Funding (Paper #652)
- State Highway Maintenance — Routine Maintenance Funding and Program Restructuring and Traffic Signal and Intelligent Transportation System Installation, Replacement, and Rehabilitation (Paper #657)
- PR Appropriation Balances (Paper #675)
- GPR Funding Increase and Compensation Plans (Paper #676)
- Incentive Grants (Paper #677)
Jon Peacock Read more
Americans are driving fewer miles than they did ten years ago, reversing a decades-long trend. Given the magnitude of the change and the implications for the future of transportation, state legislators should think about moving away from policies that support expanding highways at the expense of support for communities, schools, and health care.
“The Driving Boom is over,” declares U.S. PIRG, in their new report A New Direction. Americans drove more miles nearly every year between the end of World War II and 2004, according to the report. But after 2004, something unusual happened: Americans began driving less, both on a per capita basis and overall. Young people, especially, are driving fewer miles than their predecessors.
The chart below, taken from the report, shows the recent decline in miles driven, which started before the recession.
This recent New York Times article also describes the decrease in miles driven. The article profiles one professional in Charlotte, North Carolina, who uses his car so infrequently that he occasionally misplaces it. Read more
Next Tuesday’s Agenda Includes Shift of General Purpose Revenue to the Transportation Fund
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is settling into the long process of working through the budget bill, agency by agency and issue by issue. The JFC co-chairs announced today that the committee’s second session of debate and votes on the budget will be held on Tuesday April 30, starting at 10:00 a.m. in the JFC hearing room – 412 East.
Here’s a partial list of what the JFC plans to consider on the 30th, with links to some of the new Legislative Fiscal Bureau papers on those issues. One of the significant papers on the agenda is # 636, relating to bonding for transportation and the proposed transfer of state General Purpose Revenue to the Transportation Fund. For a full list of agencies and papers, click here.
- Compensation Reserves Overview (Paper #155) (There are also 4 other papers in this are.)
- Fund Condition Statement (Paper #635)
- Transportation Bond Summary and Use of Revenues from Other Funds to Support Transportation Programs (Paper #636)
Some of the other areas on the April 30th agenda include the following:
- Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (no papers)
- State Fair Park
- Historical Society
- Transportation — Local Transportation Assistance
- Transportation — State Patrol
- Veterans Affairs — Departmentwide, Veterans Programs, and Museums
Jon Peacock Read more
Our state is expected to finish the current fiscal year with a balance of about $420 million. There have been scads of ideas for what to do with that money – most of which don’t seem to take into account that a balance isn’t an ongoing revenue stream. Let’s take a look at a few of the options.
Although the anticipated surplus is very good news, keep in mind that one of the main reasons for the expected balance is that state officials projected a $208 million deficit about a year ago and took steps to reduce spending to address the anticipated shortfall. As a result of a number of painful cuts and lapses that were subsequently made, coupled with a rebound in revenue from the low level anticipated a year ago, state lawmakers now find themselves in the very unusual position of carrying a solid balance into the next biennial budget. Read more
Advisory Committee Report Draws Criticism from Across the Political Spectrum
Revenue for the state Transportation Fund would be boosted by about $6.8 billion over the next ten years if lawmakers enact the recommendations made today by a state advisory panel on transportation financing. The advisory committee recommended the following measures for generating additional revenue for transportation spending:
- Increasing the state gas tax by 5 cents per gallon, and indexing that tax (and/or vehicle registration fees).
- Adopting a new mileage-based registration fee of 1.02 cents per mile for passenger cars and light trucks – based on odometer readings reported by the vehicle owner at the time of annual registration. (The first 3,000 miles would be free, and the maximum number of miles charged for would be 20,000.)
- Increasing annual registration fees for commercial vehicles by 73%.
- Increasing the fee for an eight-year driver license by $20 (to $54).
- Eliminating the sales tax exemption on the trade-in value of vehicles.
Big Change #5: More Money for Highways, Less for Everything Else
If there was a significant winner in last year’s budget, it was state highways. In essence, resources were taken from Wisconsin’s public schools, university system, and health care for working families and redirected toward state highway spending.
The budget required that the state make a series of transfers from the state’s General Fund – which supports most state functions – to the state’s Transportation Fund. The state transferred $22.5 million from the General Fund to the Transportation Fund last fiscal year, and is scheduled to transfer another $137.6 million this year. That’s a total of $160.1 million in transfers from the General Fund to the Transportation Fund over two years. (To put that amount in context, Governor Walker turned down a federal grant for high-speed rail because the state would have had to spend $7.5 million per year from the Transportation Fund in support of rail service.)
What made the transfers particularly problematic is that they came at a time when the state had a large General Fund deficit, even before these funding shifts were put on the table. Read more
Proponents of highway spending often argue that roads in Wisconsin “pay for themselves” and they complain that funding for roads has been shortchanged at times by the diversion of transportation user fees to the state general Fund. A short report issued this week by 1000 Friends of Wisconsin presents facts countering those arguments.
Using research by the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI) at UW Madison, the new report – Who Pays for Roads in Wisconsin? – points out the following:
- During the period 2004-2008, user revenue accounted for about $7.4 billion per year of state sand local spending for roads and highways, compared to $8.7 billion in state and local non-user revenue, $3.1 billion of federal funding, and $3 billion of borrowing.
- In other words, the state and local user revenue was significantly less than the revenue generated within Wisconsin from non-user revenue sources.
- Road and highway spending used an annual average of $779 per Wisconsin household of non-user revenue.
For Whom Would the Tolls Toll?
Conservative groups generally don’t like taxes and government spending, but there are some areas where they do support more spending – such as highways, and especially Interstate highways. So how does one resolve opposition to taxes and support for additional spending in certain narrow areas? One way to do that is through user fees, such as highway tolls, rather than taxes.
A report issued this week by a conservative think tank, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI), makes the case for gradually phasing in tolls. I applaud WPRI for promoting public debate about an important fiscal issue and for proposing a solution. Because Wisconsin, like other states, faces serious challenges for the financing of the transportation system, I think tolls are an idea worth considering. This blog post looks at a few of the pros and cons of the idea, and why I’m leaning more toward increased gas taxes. Read more
The Joint Finance Committee is next scheduled to meet on Tuesday, May 24th and Thursday, May 26th, at 11 AM in Room 412 East in the State Capitol. On Tuesday, the Committee is scheduled to vote on issues related to the Department of Employee Trust Funds, the Government Accountability Board, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Health Services.
Here are some issues coming up on Tuesday that we’re especially interested in, and their associated Legislative Fiscal Bureau Budget Papers:
- Depositing a portion of sales tax revenue into the Transportation Fund: LFB Paper #644
- General transportation aids to local governments: LFB Paper #650
- Shifting mass transit costs from the Transportation Fund to the General Fund: LFB Paper #651
- Medical Asistance Base Reestimate: LFB Paper #340
- Unspecified changes to Medical Assistance: LFB Paper #341
- Requiring SeniorCare Participants to Enroll in Medicare Part D: LFB Paper #344
- FamilyCare enrollment cap: LFB Paper #342
On Thursday, May 26th, JFC has a mixed bag, and is slated to vote on issues related to the Educational Communications Board, Higher Educational Aids Board, Department of Administration, Department of Workforce Development, Department of Natural Resources, and Department of Public Instruction. Read more