In a move that could potentially spike the gas taxes in Wisconsin, the state’s transportation commission recommended lawmakers increase transportation revenues Wednesday in order to maintain Wisconsin’s infrastructure.
The commission called in part for an increase in the state gas tax, as well as establishing a new registration fee based on how many miles Wisconsinites drive. It also seeks about $480 million more through the next decade in infrastructure spending.
State gas taxes and driver fees make up 90 percent of the state’s transportation revenues, the commission’s report said. Because of improvements in vehicle fuel efficiency, that funding is either projected to stay the same or decrease, leading to deteriorating infrastructure.
“Transportation revenues available over the next decade will be inadequate to preserve the current condition of our network, let alone to consider the need for highway capacity improvements, better transit service for our aging population or improvements to our rail, aviation, maritime or bicycle and pedestrian infrastructures,” Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said during a press conference Wednesday.
Under the recommendations, drivers would see a five-cent raise in the state gas tax, which is currently at 32.9 cents.
The Legislature has not raised the state’s gas tax since 1993, although until 2006, the tax had been indexed to inflation. The latter has reduced how much state gas tax revenues can purchase by 13 percent, the report said.
Drivers would also see a new mileage-based yearly fee, which they would begin paying if they drive more than 3,000 miles per year. The roughly one cent per mile fee would stop at the 20,000 miles cap, so the most a driver could pay per year would be $173.40. That is on top of the current $75 yearly fee drivers pay to re-register their cars.
The fee would be self-reported, according to the report, although the state could check with car shops that report mileage on whether reporting is accurate. The committee chose to leave out an in-vehicle reporting system, which many said would violate privacy.
Former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz – the self-described “token liberal” on the commission – said the recommendations raise funding for highways too much. However, he said he supports the overall package, noting the increases in bike path and transit funding.
The committee’s recommendations could be enacted by the Legislature, perhaps in the upcoming biennial budget.
The future of those recommendations, however, is unclear. The two top Republican leaders in the Assembly said in a statement they do not support a rise in the state gas tax or the mileage-based fee.
“Raising taxes will only serve to damage our recovering economy,” Assembly Majority Leader Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said. “Any increase in the state gas tax is simply off the table.”
Suder and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, did agree with the commission on a constitutional amendment that would “protect the state’s transportation fund from being raided.”
That amendment, passed by the last Legislature, will have to pass in this session as well in order to be on a ballot for voters to approve.