Thursday, July 19, 2018

Wheel taxes keep piling up in Fitzwalkerstan

As the latest Marquette School poll shows that many people are unhappy with the condition of Wisconsin roads, two population centers in the state are forced to put a fee onto its citizens to pick up where the Walker Administration and WisGOP Legislature have left them behind.

The Green Bay and Eau Claire areas are set to become the latest places to resort to a local vehicle registration fee, or "wheel tax". Green Bay took their next step toward a new $20 wheel tax with a vote from their Common Council this week, and it follows a similar sign of approval from a GB Council meeting last month. Back in June, city officials noted that the added registration fee was preferable to the current system the city had when it came to paying for local street projects.
It's a move that a growing number of local governments around Wisconsin have taken in recent years to fund infrastructure projects amid tight restrictions on property tax increases and lagging state transportation aid.

"The more you put off repair work, the more it costs in the long run," said Alderman Bill Galvin, who voted in support of the measure.

Under the plan, wheel tax revenue would enable the city to eliminate residential special assessments, which are fees charged to property owners who live along streets being repaired. Assessments can vary widely, from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of frontage.

The additional tax revenue should also enable the city to repair more roads each year, Public Works Director Steve Grenier said.

The approval comes less than a year after the City Council voted down a similar $20 wheel tax proposal. Council support for the tax has grown in recent months, in part because some aldermen opposed to it were replaced in April by wheel tax proponents. A recent uproar over expensive special assessments also solidified support.

You gotta get the money to fix it from somewhere.

We also found out this week that another 103,000 Wisconsinites on the other end of Highway 29 will also be paying extra on their car registration. Eau Claire County residents will start pay a little less than $2.4 million a year with the new wheel tax that their county board just approved of.
To repair Eau Claire County’s roads, a $30-per-vehicle registration fee will need to be in place for at least a decade, according to the County Board Highway Committee’s vice chairman.

“Our projection to get the highway situation corrected is at least 10 years,” said Supervisor Steve Chilson, one of 20 supervisors Tuesday voting to enact the fee….

“I have been looking for a long-term solution to fixing our roads,” he said Wednesday. “In my eight years on the board, we haven’t found it. (The reality is), there is a need, but there are no other options.”

Eau Claire County has borrowed increasing amounts of money in recent years to repair and maintain its roads. Such borrowing is necessitated by state-imposed revenue limits that mean the county can’t increase its local tax collections at a high enough level to pay for its current services and road repairs.

Borrowing is exempt from revenue limits, but continued borrowing at current levels isn’t feasible into the future, county officials have said, because the interest on that borrowing becomes too costly.
So add those 200,000+ Wisconsinites to the growing list of car owners who will be paying a local wheel tax. They will be joined by nearly 37,000 residents in Green County who will start paying a $20 wheel tax in August, and over 536,000 people in Dane County who start paying $28 in October.

That means there are over 750,000 Wisconsinites that will pay a higher registration fee in the next 6 months from these 4 places alone. Scott Walker may claim HE didn’t raise taxes or fees to pay for the (deteriorating) roads, but he and the similarly negligent WisGOP legislators have absolutely caused Wisconsinites to pay more to register their vehicles as a result of their underfunding.

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