The Power to Tax is the Power to Govern
For decades now state and local governments have been content to turn taxation over to the Federal governmnet. It's a pretty sweet gig. The Feds raise taxes -- capital gains, income, tarrifs, gasoline, whatever -- and get all of the voter anger and contempt. Then the Feds turn around and give the money back to the state in the form of grants, road spending bills, earmarks, or other forms of largesse.
It's an arrangement that gives State and local lawmakers the thrill of spending without the pain of actually, themselves, being responsible for taxing that much out of their residents.
It's an arrangement that does have some downsides. The biggest is the complete lack of local control. Remember the golden rule: he who has the gold makes the rules. A local Madison neighborhood is finding that out the hard way.
The pedestrian walkway under University Avenue at Spring Harbor Drive may be old and spooky. But school and neighborhood officials say it's necessary to keep kids and residents safe when they cross that roadway, where drivers routinely exceed the posted 35 mph speed limit.
Now they're worried that plans for a $7 million reconstruction of 1.9 miles of the avenue -- from North Segoe Road in Madison to Allen Boulevard in Middleton -- next year don't include re-building the tunnel.
... Madison officials say it would cost $1 million just to build a new tunnel because federal laws would require it to be accessible for people with physical handicaps -- unlike the current walkway -- and so far the money isn't available.
City officials say they'd love to make the passage's users happy, and staff engineer Christy Bachmann said the city has applied several times for federal money to redo the tunnel, but the project always ranks low and loses out on the grants. Ald. Mark Clear, whose 19th District includes the underpass, said the city has to do something with the passage come next spring.
"Because the reconstruction project is federally funded, they require that the pedestrian underpass at University Avenue and Spring Harbor Drive be brought into ADA compliance or removed," Clear said, referring to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Glen Yoerger, an engineer for the city of Madison, said the reconstruction of the street, 80 percent of which will be paid for with federal funds with the remainder coming from local funds, will install curb and gutters and medians where needed along University Avenue, among other improvements.
Well, better luck next time kids. Your Aldermen, County Board members, state Assemblymen, state Senators, and Governor long ago gave up the right to actually govern this state. As a result, they're powerless to help you now.
Speaking personally, I'd love to see a State legislature and a State governor stand up to the Feds and fight to keep tax dollars. Then, take responsibility for collecting the money for local needs and spending the money in a way that will best serve local needs. The Feds are never going to be as good at knowing what your State needs as you. Quit dodging responsibility and start doing your jobs.