'It has to stop': Gov. Evers announces initiatives to curb reckless driving in state budget
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Governor Tony Evers announced initiatives in his state budget designed to combat reckless driving by investing in infrastructure to slow traffic and imposing stiffer penalties on drunk drivers.
The announcement comes as reckless driving has become a problem particularly in the city of Milwaukee, where a surge in stolen care has coincided with an increase in traffic deaths and homicides.
“It has to stop. Reckless driving on our roads is affecting Wisconsinites across our state, whether it’s excessive speeding, running red lights, tailgating, operating under the influence, or other dangerous behavior,” said Gov. Evers.
Evers' budget proposal would spend $60 million over the biennium traffic-calming infrastructure grants and $6.5 million to cover the costs of driver education courses for low-income students.
Undocumented immigrants would also be allowed to obtain a driver's license under Evers' plan. This provision is unlikely to be included in the budget due to Republican opposition.
"For an announcement on community safety and curbing reckless driving, Governor Evers’ proposal does little to address the actual challenges facing our communities and instead focuses on left-wing policies, like giving illegal immigrants driver's licenses," said Rep. Mark Born, co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee who will spend the next several weeks rewriting Evers' budget proposal.
The governor's plan also strengthens penalties for drunk drivers and those who are caught not wearing a seat belt. Courts would be required to issue ignition interlock devices to first-time DUI offenders, a law 30 other states currently have.
"I can think of many people in my neighborhood who talk about how they don't go out on certain nights because they are worried about drunk drivers," said Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee). "Requiring ignition interlock devices on everyone who has a drunk driving offense will keep drunk people off the road."
Rep. Bob Donovan, a Republican who represents Greenfield, signaled support for some of Evers' proposals, including expanding driver's education courses and hiring 35 additional State Patrol officers, but he was critical of issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.
"I'm not convinced that has anything to do with the reckless driving program," Donovan said.
The former Milwaukee mayoral candidate who was defeated by then-Milwaukee City Council President Cavalier Johnson added while he's pleased the governor is taking initiatives on reckless driving, money alone won't solve the problem.
"The problem, as I see it, with reckless driving, is it's not our roads, the design, it's a behavioral problem," Donovan said. "I'm a believer until we start punishing these individuals, even juveniles, they need to go to jail for these crimes."
The governor’s announcement builds on the more than $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds Gov. Evers has invested in violence prevention and community safety initiatives, including $3.5 million Gov. Evers directed to the city of Milwaukee last year, specifically designed to address reckless driving.
Mayor Johnson praised Evers' proposal and touted how federal funds have helped the city pay for roadway design changes and additional enforcement efforts.
"There is good evidence that the collective efforts are reducing reckless driving in Milwaukee," Johnson said in a statement to CBS 58.