The Wisconsin Assembly passed a budget over two months late, and the delay hasn’t made it any less of a rush job.
Fill in the Blanks
The budget restricts towns’ ability to regulate gravel mines, with stunningly sloppy language like this:
Create a provision … to prohibit a political subdivision .. from enforcing an ordinance if any of the following applies: (a) a statutory provision expressly prohibits the political subdivision from enforcing the ordinance; (b) the ordinance logically conflicts with a statutory provision; (c) the ordinance defeats the purpose of a statutory provision; or (d) the ordinance violates the spirit of a statutory provision.
Clearly, the Joint Finance Committee couldn’t be bothered to actually write out their legislation. Instead, they expect municipalities to imagine what the committee members would have written.
No Gas Tax, Just a No-Gas Tax
Rather than taxing fossil fuel consumption, which could have addressed the deficit and the environment with one stone, the committee approved a fee for hybrid and electric vehicles.
Don’t get me wrong, there will come a time when non-polluting vehicles need to support more road maintenance. Just like there will come a time when houses with solar panels will need to support the grid. But we aren’t there yet, and we need to incentivize ways that people can use less combustible fuel. Roads right now aren’t buckling under Priuses, they’re buckling under eighteen-wheelers.
Bike Paths Are Not Coming For Your Land
The budget also included prohibitions against towns seizing or condemning land to construct bike trails. Conservative groups touted this as a win for property owners.
But the property right this defends is the right to have your property depreciate. I haven’t been able to find any evidence of municipalities abusing their current options. If they did, the state could have a more direct, contiguous bike network.
For example, the trail that ought to connect Madison to Milwaukee ends abruptly a few miles short in Cottage Grove due to private property in the way. These issues sometimes get solved by routing a path the long way around, at greater expense and inconvenience to the community. Take the Oregon Rotary Trail for instance, which traces three sides of a rectangle around someone’s property.
And whatever your views are on whether cities should have the right to seize land for infrastructure projects, it’s not right to prohibit it when it comes to bike paths while still allowing it for roads. Bike paths can accommodate more people at less cost, with environmental and health benefits. And they take less of your land to build.