State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R- rural Rock County) has a plan that would add revenues to the state’s deficit-ridden Transportation Fund, and do so by shifting the burden away from the average Wisconsin driver and put it on the trucking industry. Loudenbeck’s proposal would put a per-mile fee onto the registrations of heavy trucks, similar to an idea that has been previously floated for all vehicles.
The per-mile fees are a way to not only add to DOT revenues, but also make the DOT less reliant on the consumption of gasoline, as vehicles become more fuel-efficient. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel notes that Loudenbeck’s plan to limit the new fee to trucks would make it relatively easy to carry out, and matches a law that is already in place in 4 other states.
Unlike tolling, with its tolling plazas, electronic card readers and coin machines, the per mile fee would be relatively easy to administer, she said. That's because trucking companies that cross state lines already track their miles traveled as part of a diesel tax compact between the United States and Canada known as the International Fuel Tax Agreement.This makes a lot of sense to me, mostly because heavy trucks are a significant source of the damage to roads, and they should pay more of the freight (pun intended) to go into the costs of repair. It’s also a fee that most Wisconsinites would not pay, which makes it a lot more politically palatable than a registration fee increase on all cars or a gas tax hike.
One notable exception to that would be truckers who only haul loads inside Wisconsin. They would need to start tracking that information.
Four states already place fees on heavy trucks: Kentucky, New York, New Mexico and Oregon, Loudenbeck said. Wisconsin could mimic the approach of one of those states and be on firm legal ground, she said…
The heavy truck fee could be a flat fee or be graduated by the weight or size of trucks, Loudenbeck said. If Wisconsin adopted Kentucky's 2.85 cents per mile fee, it would raise more than $250 million for the state over two years and cost truckers or their customers the same amount.
It’ll be intriguing to see how this proposal turns out, and not just because a miles-traveled fee on trucks would be a new revenue source for WisDOT. The trucking industry and particularly Green Bay’s Schneider National are big GOP donors, and the daughter of Schneider’s owner has been mentioned as a potential GOP candidate for Senate in 2018.
Yeah, make these guys pay!
On the other side of the DOT funding question, Wisconsin’s Transportation Development Association (aka “The Road Builders”) are keeping up the heat with the release of a recent poll of Wisconsinites. The Road Builders point out that the poll indicated support of higher gas taxes and other fees, and opposition to borrowing and budget cuts as a method to handle the DOT’s deficit.
….Nearly half (47%) believe Wisconsin’s roads have gotten WORSE; only 21% believe they have gotten better.Obviously, the Road Builders wouldn't have released this poll if it went against what they wanted, but the findings do indicate that the road funding issue is sinking in with voters (how can you avoid it when you car feels all the bumps?), and that they aren't going to accept fealty to DC lobbyist Grover Norquist and having talking points about "I didn't raise taxes" as an excuse to avoid fixing the highways.
· Walker’s handling of transportation issues is underwater. Governor Walker’s handling of transportation issues is 44% approve –47% disapprove.
· Given voters’ intensity on this issue, voters’ voice strong opposition to construction delays. Given Wisconsinites’ intensity on this issue, it is not surprising to see voters opposing the delay of highway reconstruction in the Milwaukee area; including, the Zoo Interchange by a two-to-one margin (62%-31%). 67% of voters in the Milwaukee DMA oppose reconstruction delays with 50% strongly opposing.
· They also voice strong opposition to using debt to fund road construction. Wisconsin voters support only two sources of money for transportation and road projects:
oIncrease taxes and fees (41%)
oTake money from other areas in the budget (40%)
Maybe Loudenbeck's idea of a miles-traveled fee for trucks is the start of a way for the GOP Legislature to try to work its way out of the pickle that Walker's "kick the can" mentality has put them in. But even $250 million a year isn't nearly enough to pay for the increasing needs, even if that fee were to be implemented. As I said yesterday, keep an eye on the shell games and trial balloons in these last frantic weeks, there's likely more "ideas" and head fakes to come.