Executive Update: Transportation is big election day winner

The votes are tallied and the confetti swept away. In the wake of another closely watched election season, we wanted to take a closer look at the results and pass along a few highlights. Here are the outcomes and issues that are sure to have an impact on our state’s asphalt pavement industry.

The big news in the Badger State (making national headlines) was the resounding success of the “Vote Yes” campaign and the passage of the new constitutional amendment ensuring that funds generated by transportation must be used for transportation. The measure passed by a margin of 4-to-1, a clear mandate from Wisconsin’s taxpayers on responsible budgeting and the importance of ensuring a quality transportation system.

  • The Wisconsin State Journal noted that the “approval guarantees an estimated $1.8 billion a year will be dedicated solely to transportation.” What’s more, the amendment received “widespread bipartisan support, passing two successive legislative sessions by wide margins. It was one of only a handful of issues on which Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic rival, Mary Burke, agreed during their campaigns.”
  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outlined the history of the measure, from the need identified after “state elected officials tapped $1.3 billion from the transportation fund to pay for schools and other programs” to approval by lawmakers in 2011 and 2013 to the public referendum on September 4.
  • Victory is sweet, but the work is not over. Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association Executive Director Pat Goss says, “Protecting the Transportation Fund is just the first step. Wisconsin still faces a significant transportation funding shortfall that must be addressed in the next legislative session. To accomplish that, industry and the broad coalition of transportation supporters are going to need the same kind of grassroots support that secured [Tuesday’s] victory.”

Governing.com provided a summary of Governor Walker’s re-election, his third in four years, and what it means for the way Wisconsin pays for transportation projects. “Walker suggested the state could introduce high-occupancy toll lanes on existing interstates and even broached the possibility of raising the state’s sales tax and eliminating its gas tax.”

In an email to its members, NAPA reported that “Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will be the next Chairman of Ways and Means Committee, making him in charge of solving the Highway Trust Fund solvency issue.” (WisPolitics.com provided a comprehensive overview of Wisconsin’s shifting political landscape resulting from the November 4 election.)

Funding is sure to be a hot topic at WAPA’s Annual Conference and Business Meeting, to be held December 2-3 in Madison. Register now if you haven’t yet.

AASHTO provided a state-by-state report on transportation ballot initiatives. Voters across the country demonstrated that they strongly support increased investment in transportation improvements. Successes beyond Wisconsin’s ballot measure include a similar transportation “lockbox” amendment in Maryland and a 40 percent increase in transportation spending in Texas.

Moreover, The Hill reported that the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) “… is touting a 67 percent success rate of the transportation ballot initiatives that were before voters in Tuesday’s election. … 60 of 90 ballot questions that were related to transportation funding were approved on Tuesday.”

FleetOwner considered whether state transportation referendums will impact national policy.

… Local and state governments now must take the lead in dealing with the transportation issues, noted Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association…

“The transportation ballot initiatives in Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas and Wisconsin are strong evidence that states are not waiting for the federal government to act,” he explained.

“Reflecting ongoing concerns over the future of the federal surface transportation reauthorization, state and local governments are embracing homegrown ways to tackle their infrastructure funding challenges,” Jones said.

Moving forward, Congress will be looking to produce a new long-term surface transportation bill, a goal that has eluded federal lawmakers since 2009. The current temporary measure extended funding to states until May 2015. ARTBA noted that states rely on federal funds for more than half of their road money; they would love for even earlier action to help with planning for their summer construction season.

NAPA spelled out an action plan for Congress given current circumstances.

The work of the 113th Congress is not complete. Lawmakers return to Washington the week of Nov. 12 to finish the session … and plenty is left to do.

• Congress must pass legislation to extend funding for the government and highway programs beyond the Dec. 11 deadline.

• A number of popular tax provisions expire at the end of the year. They either need to be extended or made permanent.

The President and congressional leaders will meet to discuss the agenda for the lame-duck session, and NAPA is working with the Highway Material Group to press for consideration of a gas tax increase before the end of the year.

In the meantime, members of the 114th Congress will be meeting to get organized and elect party leaders. The legislative agenda for next year will include:

• Reauthorization of MAP-21

• Reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs

• Tax reform

• Regulatory relief

To be sure, this is an important time to be part of the asphalt pavement and transportation industry. We can all agree that these election results show, once again, that the public wants the government to invest in our mobility and safety and is willing to pay for it.

As our nation’s infrastructure ages and the demands on our transportation network grow, smart economic and environmental decisions need to be made for our future. Asphalt pavements ensure the smooth, quiet and safe ride drivers demand. They also offer a consistently high level of performance, which in turn saves lives, reduces vehicle wear and tear, and can improve fuel economy.

In this day and age of tight budgets and numerous competing priorities, asphalt pavements offer the cost-effective, environmentally sustainable, high performance solutions to meet all our transportation needs.


Brandon Strand
Wisconsin Asphalt Pavement Association