The first of these ideas was put together by former Assembly Speaker (and Supreme Court choker) David Prosser, who put together a multi-part plan in Madison’s Isthmus that would make up for the lack of revenue that is currently in the state’s Transportation Fund. Prosser would start by immediately reinstating indexing on the state’s gas tax, which raises the tax for inflation, and was done away with 11 years ago.
According to an analyst in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, if indexing had not been repealed, the current gasoline tax would be 37.9 cents per gallon, plus 2 cents to clean up underground tanks. Even 39.9 cents would be below the current taxes in Michigan, Indiana and the most populated parts of Illinois.If the gas tax went up to 39.9 cents a gallon, that in itself would raise around $210 million a year, if you go off of the LFB’s paper from earlier this year on DOT revenue options. Prosser also calls for a $25 increase on registration fees for cars and light trucks. Prosser notes that this would raise another $115 million a year for roads, and the $100 a year annual fee would still be less than most other states around Wisconsin.
Opponents of a responsible gas tax increase must address not only the unfortunate repeal of indexing but also the increased fuel efficiency of many vehicles. The Fiscal Bureau explains that if the Legislature tried to make up the revenue lost since 2006 from “fuel efficiency” alone, it would have to raise the gas tax by 4 cents. These facts, as Alexander Hamilton once put it, are “too stubborn to be resisted.”
Other ideas Prosser has is to put in some kind of “hybrid tax” on alternative energy vehicles, and possibly base that tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to recoup some of the costs incurred by those vehicles using the highways. Lastly, Prosser says that perhaps the state should use sponsorships or provide services at its rest areas to get back some of the costs that go into maintaining those facilities.
Not sure how keen I am on the last 2 ideas, but at least they’re more coherent and creative than anything we’re hearing from today’s GOP lawmakers. On a related note, longtime Capitol reporter Steven Walters interviewed former State Sen. Mike Ellis to talk about how he would solve the state’s DOT funding problems. Ellis said he’d focus on getting money from one sector of the state’s economy.
Ellis noted that sales tax collections from auto-related purchases – new and used cars, parts and supplies– totaled $559.6 million in 2015, according to the Fiscal Bureau. That was 11% of the $5 billion in sales tax collections.OK, on the face of it, that makes sense. Why not divert revenue from car sales and put it into the roads those cars will use? It also avoids the hassle of an increase in the gas tax or registration fees, so it would be largely “invisible” to the average voter.
Phasing in the diversion of that $559.6 million – from the state’s general fund to the Transportation Fund – over several years would go a long way toward solving the highway funding problem, Ellis said.
But the problem is that you are taking money away from the So Walters points this out, and Ellis has a pathetic simplistic response.
But that diversion would cause problems in paying for important non-transportation programs – aid to K-12 schools and local governments, Medicaid, credits to offset property taxes and the UW and prison systems, for example.Hold it right there, Mikey, you personally voted for Act 10 and Walker’s first budget, which took huge amounts of money out of the coffers of workers and local governments. We’ve cut the UW System to record-low levels of state support, and are gutting the ability for the state to take care of environmental management and preservation of the state’s great natural resources.
Ellis’s solution to that problem: “If you got a (deficit) hole, why don’t you cut spending?
Over in the Transportation Fund, we’ve previously slowed down and deferred projects for several years, and are currently holding up further work on the Zoo Interchange due to WisGOP’s decision to jam through the Fox-con over finishing the (one-month overdue) state budget.
So tell me where is this magic pot of spending Mike Ellis claims that we can cut from? We already have a structural deficit of more than $1 billion in the next budget, and if Ellis’ proposed shift of car-related taxes were put fully into effect, it would add another $1.1 billion to that.
Oh wait, I’ve got it! How about not giving away hundreds of millions of dollars away every year to corporations on Fox-cons and other WEDC handouts? And a 2017 Senate GOP budget that would end up increasing spending on unaccountable voucher schools in Wisconsin by 138% in 8 years isn’t the most fiscally responsible route, is it?
Outside of bad spending priorities, there’s a base reason that we keep on digging budget holes in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan- because prior tax cuts by Walker and WisGOP mean that we have no money available to pay for these needs. Maybe at some point, you have to comprehend that you need taxes to be paid to have a functioning society in the 2010s. Maybe we need to admit that giving the store away to the rich and corporate is keeping us from having the resources we need in order to have our society function, nor has this pay-for-play strategy been the best way to grow our state’s economy.
And maybe we should throw this multi-year experiment in Koch/ALEC rule in Wisconsin into the trash bin in 2018. Granted, I may not have decades of experience around the Capitol like Mike Ellis and Davie Prosser, but that’s definitely how it looks from observing things in the Capitol today. And the ideas of the ALEC crew of today definitely doesn’t add up among us who don’t think math is a liberal plot.