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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

 5:05 PM 

Senate moves DOT bill down on calendar after Cowles joins Dems on amendment

Senate GOP leaders have moved down the calendar legislation to eliminate the requirement that the Department of Transportation do a cost-benefit analysis of any contract worth more than $25,000.

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, joined Dems in opposing tabling of an amendment to maintain the requirement. That prompted Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, to seek consent to move the bill lower on the calendar, saying members were working on a new amendment.

In addition to stripping the cost-benefit analysis, the legislation also would add a new requirement that the DOT annually submit a report to the Legislature for the preceding fiscal year on the total cost of engineering services done both by agency employees, contractors and by the two working together.

Dems complained the legislation ends a critical piece of DOT contracts that asks if it’s better to have work done by state employees rather than private contractors.

“We’re just going hand out contracts, period, and then we’re going to come back after the fact to see if it was worth it,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton.

The chamber voted 17-16 against tabling the amendment from Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, to keep the cost-benefit analysis.

Bill sponsor Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, argued the cost-benefit studies are not needed because the DOT does not have good information to compile the estimates and the current requirement is an unnecessary burden on the agency that is costing taxpayers money.

Lazich noted the guv’s task force on waste, fraud and government abuse questioned their value in cutting costs.

“They are labor intensive, they’re expensive and they’re not accurate,” Lazich said.

UPDATE: The bill has been moved back to Senate Org.


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