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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Taxpayers taken for a ride, a ride that is now ending

The following appears in the latest edition of the Wisconsin Conservative Digest and is re-printed here with permission of the publisher.

Taxpayers taken for a ride, a ride that is now ending

By Sen. Alberta Darling (R-8th District)

and Rep. Robin Vos (R-63rd District)


This past session, we spent a lot of time fixing the mess former Gov. Jim Doyle and the Democrats made when they were in power. From filling a $3.6 billion deficit to repaying the Injured  Victims Compensation Fund that he raided, we've made it our goal to protect taxpayers form the bad decisions made in years past. As the chairs of the budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance, it is our job to be responsible stewards with the generous money taxpayers provide the state.

The no-bid Talgo Inc. contract was astonishingly irresponsible, even by Doyle and the Democrats' fiscal standards. Shortly after a hastily announced jaunt to Spain, Doyle used a loophole in the law to commit Wisconsin to a no-bid boondoggle that locked in escalating costs for a train that couldn't survive without continual taxpayer support.

The more we found out, the less there was to like. The deal was sold as a $47.1 million contract, but the actual cost was closer to $70 million. Those trains were meant to be built for a less than high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee at great taxpayer expense. Gov. Scott Walker smartly turned away one-time federal funding for a train people didn't want and couldn't afford. The federal funding wouldn't have touched the long-term costs of maintaining and operating the train that wouldn't have saved commuters any time and would cost taxpayers in perpetuity. It was a boondoggle we couldn't afford.

Since the trains wouldn't be used for the Madison-to-Milwaukee line, the trains had to go to Amtrak's Hiawatha line. Unfortunately, the trains are too small to meet ridership demands for that 
line, which means we would need to build even more cars that are more expensive to operate on the Hiawatha line. It's throwing good money after bad. For the sake of the taxpayers in Wisconsin, it was time to go back to the table and work on a deal that would betetr protect taxpayers. 

We made the decision 
in the Joint Finance Committee like any family would–by looking at the numbers. In early December, the committee passed a motion to ask the Department of Transportation for a full analysis of the taxpayer cost of running the Talgo trains and opening a permanent maintenance facility for 20 years vs. the cost of running the current Amtrak trains. the difference made decisions easy  for Wisconsin taxpayers.

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that Talgo trains would cost taxpayers $10 million more each year for the next 20 years. we didn't believe
it was wise to throw $200 million taxpayer dollars at a bad project. The state would be bound by contract to have a more frequent maintenance schedule than Amtrak, instantly inflating the cost of operations by 3%. These new Talgo trains have to be serviced every other day. The current Amtrak trains are maintained on a set schedule and on an as-needed basis, similar to how you maintain your own car. 

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates the cost to operate the new trains would be $5.1 million higher. However, that's assuming  the same number of people ride the trains. However, the Talgo trains are smaller. In addition, Illinois now helps pay for 25% of the Amtrak contract, but it wouldn't pay anything to help maintain the talgo trains. It's not part of the Talgo agreement. It's not part of the Talgo agreement.

Now you have to add the required construction costs of the maintenance facility. The capital costs would add $5 million annually to the state's bill. That brings the total cost to $10 million each year for the next 20 years - $200 million that can be better spent elsewhere.

For those who currently ride the Amtrak train, this decision means you will see no difference with your service. However, if we would've chosen 
the more expensive route, riders of the new trains could potentially see fare hikes, less seating on the train and this popular line suddenly becomes less attractive. It's a gamble we were not willing to take.

Luckily, the state has options. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, if no funds were given for the Talgo maintenance facility
, the "agreement can be terminated by either party." So that's where we are now. The state will go back to the table with Talgo and try to work out a better deal than the no-bid one they received in the final days of the Doyle administration. Wisconsin taxpayers were taken for a ride by Doyle and the Democrats. We're proud to say that the ride is coming to an end.

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester) are co-chairs of
the Joint Finance Committee.

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About this time, after the elections, is when conservatives go to sleep, zip up their billfolds and say: "We elected them do all of the hard lifting.” That is why we win battles and lose wars. The campaigns must go on. Conservatives have to keep working and keep giving. Politics is a blood sport; we have seen that in Madison this past year.

Ronald Reagan said once: "When you pull all of those snouts away from the trough you are going to get a lot of oinking.” That is what is happening. The left is apoplectic. They might lose 25% or more of their contributions. That can kill some of them. The left lives off the rest of us. Public employees and many public agencies depend on our money, tax money, to pay for their political activities. We Conservatives must go out and get money from hard working people. Most of the rich people have become liberals. Conservatives are the people that are out there every day busting their butts.

Please help us organize: Send us $25 or send us a request to get 25 of the new Conservative Digests. Distribute them to libraries, coffee shops, organizations, meetings, and friends. Join our e-mail lists and get immediate updates on what is happening in Madison and DC. Then you can help by hollering, sending letters, calling your local newspaper editors and talk shows. This is a fight for the future.

Do you want to see the future become that of the leftwing visions? Or do you want a future for our kids that includes personal freedoms, property rights, low taxes, and better jobs and salaries, homes and lives?

It is your choice: Help!!

Bob and Jean Dohnal, Publishers/Editors, Wisconsin Conservative Digest
W. Potter Rd.
Wauwatosa, WI 53226-3407
(414) 258-1719




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