Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Annual gas tax sparks debate in Wisconsin

With the annual gas tax increase taking place today, several Wisconsin legislators Thursday announced their plan to introduce a bill that would end the automatic indexing of state gas taxes.

The repeal of the gas tax indexing would allow legislators to vote on increases in gas taxes.

Since 1985, an automatic boost in the state gas tax has occurred on the first day of April each year. The annual increase is an adjustment for inflation; this year the tax will rise eight-tenths of a cent per gallon. The increase brings the total tax to almost 30 cents per gallon, not including a three-cent tax for environmental impact.


Over the past ten years, the indexing has increased gas taxes by 16.5 cents.

State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, a co-author of the bill, said the current system, where the gas tax goes up each year without a legislative vote, needs to be changed.

“The gas tax has been raised over 10 cents a gallon without the Legislature even voting on it,” Carpenter said.

The goal of the proposal is to bring accountability back to the state Legislature, Carpenter added.

“All we are asking for is to repeal indexing so that legislators go on record voting on tax issues,” Carpenter said.

For 2005, an estimated $351 million will be raised by the eight-tenths of a cent gas tax. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported $3.2 billion has been accrued since the indexing started 10 years ago.

Though Carpenter said the bill is not intended to end the gas tax altogether, some say the indexing is a necessary way to help fund state transportation.

AAA Wisconsin spokesman Mike Bie said the gas tax and its annual increase are crucial for Wisconsin’s roads.

“The gas tax is essential to maintain the transportation program here in the state,” Bie said.

According to Bie, in previous years when other repeals have been introduced, no alternative methods for incurring revenue were proposed.

“If indexing were repealed, there would have to be a revenue stream to replace it, or our transportation fund here in the state would be crippled,” he said.

The price of gas in Madison currently stands at an average of $2.19 per gallon and Bie said the cost will only go up.

“The prospects are not good for lower gas prices, to say the least,” Bie said.

There are several factors that come into play with the price of gas, Bie said, including the time of year and fluctuations in oil prices.

“Right now we’re paying higher prices as a result of high crude oil prices,” Bie said. “As we get closer to the summer travel season, prices typically increase as a result of an increase in demand because more people are driving.”

Bie said in past summer seasons, the increase in the price of gas has been about 20 cents per gallon.

Though the gas tax may seem like a burden on drivers, the increase in tax is minimal when considering the recent increase in oil prices, Bie said.

At this time last year, Bie added, the price of gas was $1.79 in Madison and $2 one month ago.

“The increase in indexing is really the least of our concerns when compared to what the market is doing right now,” Bie said.

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