Our View: Rough road ahead to boost highway funds

2013-01-09T12:42:00Z Our View: Rough road ahead to boost highway fundsTHE HERALD Chippewa Herald
January 09, 2013 12:42 pm  • 

You can tell when a government entity has little faith in a proposal. It releases details of its plan on the Friday before a long holiday weekend.

So you may have not heard about a plan by a 10-member citizen commission to dip heavily into your wallet to pay for transportation projects.

The Wisconsin Transportation Finance and Policy Commission released its preliminary findings the Friday before Christmas, and will vote on its final recommendations on Jan. 23.

Here’s no surprise: The commission, created in the 2011-23 state biennial budget, says the way the state funds highway projects stinks.

“The state’s decades-old transportation funding model is not keeping pace with current or future needs. The state has chosen to address its transportation funding shortfall with increased debt through bond issuance - a path that is unsustainable over the long term,” a report by the commission said.

No surprise. For many years, the city of Chippewa Falls pursued the same path and found out that, eventually, you have to pay the bill. And when you do, the pain can extend for years, as the city found in the early years of the new century in straightening out its finances.

The commission came up with four scenarios on how state transportation funding can play out by 2023. The funding gap ranged from $2 billion under the best scenario to $17.1 billion under the worst.

Doing nothing is not an option, the commission found, since the amount of state and local pavements along with bridges would soar from 20 percent in 2014 to 42 percent in 2023.

To fight that, the commission is calling on increased funding.

Guess who will pay for that?

Right. Start digging deep, according to the commission, that is calling for:

-- A 5 cent boost in the state gasoline tax;

-- A new registration fee that’s mileage based, a fee of 1.02 cents a mile for passenger cars and light trucks. The first 3,000 miles would be free. After that, start paying per mile up to 20,000 miles. Odometer readings would be taken during annual registration to find out how much you would pay. But pay $01.02 for the maximum 17,000 miles would result in a fee of $173.40;

-- A driver’s license fee would be boosted by $20;

-- The sales tax exemption on the trade-in value of vehicles would get the boot;

-- And the registration fee for commercial vehicles would be increased.

“If the commission’s recommendations are adopted, the fuel taxes and registration fees on a typical Wisconsin passenger vehicle will increase by $120 a year, or about 33 cents a day,” the commission says.

Plus the commission wants to squeeze more revenue for local governments to pay for transportation costs, allowing the local entities to create a 0.5 percent transportation sales tax.

Here’s a fact: Chippewa County has the fourth highest number of miles of roads of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.  Those roads need help, too.

Any solution to state transportation funding shortfalls that doesn’t significantly boost money for local streets and highways has a very bumpy road ahead.

Copyright 2015 Chippewa Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. cclover
    Report Abuse
    cclover - January 12, 2013 7:59 am
    About ten years ago, durning one of our annual gas increases our state did away with the indexing of the gas tax. At that time we were all warned of what would happen. Now it has happened and we are all surprised. The senate needs to take charge and undo what they have done. We all have to pay a little more for what we have. In the words of a famous comedian, Lets Get Er Done.
  2. SRLaBelle
    Report Abuse
    SRLaBelle - January 09, 2013 2:27 pm
    Rather than inventing ever more creative ways to tap the citizens of the state, shouldn't the state take a long hard look at where highway dollars go and try to get more bang for the taxpayer's buck? In Japan, in the spring of 2011 there was a terrible disaster, with many deaths and much tragedy. I have been surprised by the cost of rebuilding, the estimates I have seen put the cost of rebuilding(net of the economic costs of lost production) in the $120 billion range. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aftermath_of_the_2011_Tōhoku_earthquake_and_tsunami)
    Then I look at the Southeastern Wisconsin highway rebuilding project with a price tag of $6.4 billion and I can't help but wonder which pockets all that cash is falling into...(http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/2012/01/get-ready-for-new-wisconsin-road-taxes.html?m=1)
    Something about the cost of building roads and bridges in the US just screams fraud and abuse..... So maybe, before tapping everyone for another few $billion, th
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