Wisconsin panel touts tax, fee hikes for transportation

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/14/2013

Truckers and others in Wisconsin would pay more at the fuel pump if a road funding plan is supported by state lawmakers and the governor.

The state’s Transportation Finance and Policy Commission is working on a list of recommendations for Gov. Scott Walker to help address Wisconsin’s transportation funding for the next decade. The panel is expected to submit its final report to lawmakers on Jan. 23.

It’s estimated that the state has a $6 billion shortfall to address road and bridge needs over the next 10 years.

The 10-person panel released a list of preliminary recommendations to help the state cover their funding needs. Among the methods included are increasing the state’s fuel tax rate by 5 cents per gallon, implementing a new mileage-based fee for motorists, and increasing registration fees for large trucks.

The state gets 85 percent of its transportation revenue from the fuel tax and vehicle registration fee. However, critics point out that the state’s 30.9-cent-per-gallon tax rate doesn’t go as far as it once did. More fuel-efficient vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles and changed driving habits are blamed for fewer dollars being available for transportation work.

“The result is increasing transportation needs and decreasing revenues to address them,” the panel’s preliminary report reads.

A separate funding method would rely solely on large trucks to pay higher registration fees. A 1 percent increase in the gross weight rates schedule is expected to raise $913,000 annually.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association remains committed to the fuel tax as the primary way to fund highways.

“The fuel tax has been shown time and again to be the most efficient system to pay for highway maintenance and improvements based on its low cost of collection,” said OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Ryan Bowley.

The panel notes that they did review tolling as a possible funding method. However, they found “that current federal regulations on tolling create an obstacle to its implementation in Wisconsin.”

Gov. Walker can move forward with the panel’s recommendations or offer his own funding solutions. He has downplayed the possibility of increasing fuel tax rates or charging toll taxes to pay for transportation work in the state.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wisconsin, click here.

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