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Former legislator critical of state highway spending

NEILLSVILLE, Wis. (WXPR) -- A former state Senator has presented a report which he says shows the state has been funneling money out of towns and counties for use on state roads, mainly in urban areas.

Tom Harnisch of Neillsville is a lawyer who works with the Wisconsin Towns Association. He served in the Wisconsin Senate from 1975 to ­1983.

In his study to the Wisconsin Towns Association, Harnisch found a trend over the past few years. "Looking at the numbers from 1993 to 2015, the local share went down from 36 percent to 24 percent. That means of the total transportation package...they've shifted that money away from supporting local roads and obviously, in turn, shifting money to state highways and state facilities."

Harnisch thinks there's a connection between deteriorating county and town roads and this revenue shift. He says the legislature has put tight levy limits on local governments which makes it difficult to do road upgrades.  "Rural Wisconsin is becoming industrialized, and with the increase in logging and mining, non­metallic mining, agriculture and the whole issues of carrying manure and whatever are all issues of dealing with road abuse."

Harnisch says many of the rural roads were never built to handle the increasing volume of vehicles for commerce.

Harnisch says Wisconsin isn't charging as much for roads as nearby states. He says dwindling revenues and shifting of resources, coupled with increased use and local government restrictions are causing towns and counties real problems in maintaining local roads.

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