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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Thursday, April 09, 2009

McIlheran Watch: Imagine the parallel response

by folkbum

Case the First
Tim Carpenter: State Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) said Tuesday he will try to pass a law that would prevent the Department of Transportation from expanding I-94 in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. "Reconstruction of the freeway is needed; expansion is not," Carpenter said in a press release.

Actual McIlheran response: Ask yourself this, though: The cost of rebuilding I-94, at $2 billion, is almost entirely going into the rebuild itself of a 50-year-old road and the reconstruction of its present, unsafe interchanges. Only about 11% is going into adding a fourth lane, and as many have pointed out, if you make that a high-occupancy toll lane, where drivers can opt to pay for express service, it wouldn’t cost gas taxes a thing. It’s about $200 million for the expansion, but that’s a small share of the whole project, which Carpenter, et al., concede is needed.

Case the Second
The audit of MPS finances: Redesigning employee benefits. This carries potentially the most savings, up to $43 million, and a key step would be creating incentives for MPS employees to enroll in the less expensive of two insurance plans that are offered. Currently, there is no incentive to do that, and the majority of employees choose a plan that costs thousands of dollars more each year.

Imagined McIlheran response: Ask yourself this, though: The cost of MPS, at $1.2 billion, is almost entirely going into the education of difficult students who come from deep poverty, broken families, non-English speaking backgrounds, and unsafe neighborhoods. Only about 3.6% is going into the better benefit package, and as many have pointed out, if that attracts better teachers, who have stronger talents and are better able to reach these difficult students, it adds tremendous value now. It’s about $43 million for the insurance, but that’s a small share of the whole district budget.
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It's interesting how it sounds so natural for him to defend an expansion of a highway that the DOT's own studies suggest will have no impact on congestion (but great impact on neighbors and the environment), but it sounds so weird for him to support the actual men and women doing the hard work of educating Wisconsin's neediest children.

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