Pothole woes

Political Beat

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A good friend who lives in suburban Milwaukee recently reported there were potholes on her neighborhood streets. She added that she blamed President Barack Obama for the situation.

Cynics might blame conservative talk radio personalities. They regularly lay the blame for American problems, both real and perceived, on the White House doorstep.

Republicans have no other choice than to blame Obama. He is the only major Democratic official in sight. Republicans have majorities in both houses of Congress and both houses of the Wisconsin Legislature. The governor is a Republican and conservatives even control the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

It’s easy to understand why a solid Republican would surely think the problem resides with Obama.

The truth is we are the problem. We want good roads, highways and bridges. But we’d rather not pay any more to accomplish those goals.

In October, the League of Wisconsin Municipalities called on Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature “to enact an adequate, equitable and sustainable transportation funding system” that met both state and local needs.

The League’s resolution cited a report by the Local Government Institute of Wisconsin that the Wisconsin system of roads and bridges is below average. Less than half the pavement is rated “good” in terms of smoothness. Thirty-five states, including three neighboring states, have roads and bridges in better condition than Wisconsin.

Local governments, the people in charge of fixing most street potholes, rely significantly on state assistance.

Critics have suggested the state has focused on major highway projects at the expense of help for filling neighborhood potholes.

Early in December, gasoline was priced below $2 in some Wisconsin localities. That might be an opening for a gas tax increase to help pay for things like aid to local governments to repair potholes.

-Matt Pommer is the “dean” of Capitol correspondents in Madison. His column is published with permission from the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, but does not reflect the views or opinions of the WNA or its member newspapers.

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