WEST ALLIS — Racine Mayor John Dickert and fellow city leaders from around Wisconsin asked Friday that the state’s projected budget surplus go toward restoring cuts to shared revenue and funding more efficient infrastructure.
Republican legislative leaders, as well as Gov. Scott Walker, have proposed putting a projected $484 million in extra revenue toward a middle-class income tax cut, among other uses.
According to Dickert, “You have to take the politics out of that conversation.”
Speaking after a press conference for the Urban Alliance of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, group president Dickert said that a tax cut makes politicians look good, but funding cities allows them to develop businesses and avoid cutting services, which ultimately serves taxpayers better.
“You’ve withdrawn money from the cities and you’ve stagnated job growth,” said Dickert, referring to state lawmakers who cut state aid to cities and municipalities.
Also topping the Urban Alliance agenda is funding “more efficient, more effective” public transportation, Dickert said.
“What we said, almost unanimously, is that current (transportation) programs are inefficient and will end up bankrupting the state,” the mayor said.
First and foremost, the state needs to stop focusing on building more roads, Dickert said, saying that the debt for maintaining current roadways is already projected at around $6 billion over the next decade.
“Why build more roads if we can’t maintain what we have?” Dickert asked.
Instead, Dickert said he and his fellow city leaders want to discuss building more efficient public transportation, pointing to the “low-hanging fruit” of an improved, expanded bus system that could cross county lines to connect workers to jobs and assist senior citizens, individuals with disabilities and young people who can’t easily transport themselves.
The Urban Alliance hopes for the opportunity to sit down with state leaders and discuss these issues.
Dickert said he’s already made overtures to the Racine area’s local legislators, with mixed results. While many Democrats “want shared revenue back to where it was,” Dickert said local Republican leaders have been less receptive.
Speaker of the Assembly Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he remains committed to the middle-class tax cut.
“When government has extra taxpayer dollars, they should be returned to the taxpayer,” Vos said. “Republicans were elected on a platform of giving back to the taxpayers, that’s what we intend to do.”