The Wisconsin Transportation Finance Commission is now exploring options to cover a decrease in revenue for its transportation budget, according to a report by the commission.
Some of the key questions the Transportation Finance Commission will examine include how the state’s transportation services should be modified to address changing demographics, the level of transportation services Wisconsin citizens are willing to support and the gas tax that is currently the primary funding source for Wisconsin’s transportation system, according to the report.
The Transportation Finance Committee will also address whether the state will need a new approach to raising transportation revenues, according to the report.
Wisconsin is currently contracted to spend about $1 billion dollars on highway projects in 2013, according to the report.
Among the potential options the commission faces are a proposed gas tax increase, or a vehicle mileage tax, based on the number of miles traveled by vehicles each year, according to the Department of Transportation report.
State Rep. Robb Kahl, D-Monona, also a member of the Transportation Finance Commission, said in an interview with The Badger Herald the commission is taking a “holistic approach” and looking to gather a consensus.
He explained the economic reality has left the commission with “no new revenue coming in” for transportation projects.
With the increase in fuel-efficient cars, there is less money being received from the current gas tax, Kahl said.
“Meanwhile, Wisconsin roads are still experiencing the same wear and tear,” Kahl said. “If the problems of reduced funding are not addressed at the state level now, the costs will inevitably trickle down to the local and county level.”
This would leave local governments to shoulder the burden for transportation servicing costs, he said.
Kahl explained the vehicle mileage traveled approach — where a tax is placed on miles driven rather than fuel — is also another option that is being discussed.
“The State of Oregon has already undergone a Vehicle Miles Traveled pilot program as an alternative to a gas tax increase,” Kahl commented.
Peggy Schmitt, public affairs spokesperson for the DOT, said no decision has been made.
“The commission is an independent and bipartisan body that will review the options and report their findings early next year,” Schmitt said.
The commission has held public hearings on these issues statewide, and its deadline to submit the report is March 1, 2013.