Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Budget problems for Wisconsin Transportation already obvious

Sounds like the reality of a bad budget is already setting in for the WisGOP Legislature. Take a look at this story which includes extensive quotes from Assembly speaker Robbin’ Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald. Vos now is saying that the goals of this legislative session will be related to “right-sizing” government (i.e., not going after corporations that harm the state and break the law), and they are shelving talk of income or property tax cuts (translation: “You voted for us believing we'd keep cutting taxes after the election? SUCKERS!”).

But these guys also want to stay in the good graces of the Koch/ALEC/Grover Norquist "no-tax" power structure, so they’re not willing to entertain certain options to fund their road-building binge.
Vos also said a hike in the gas tax wouldn't be possible or reasonable but adds he wants to wait for the guv before committing to any specific plan to fund roads.

[Gov Scott] Walker has suggested in recent interviews that GOP lawmakers don't want a gas tax boost, even with prices dropping to around $2 a gallon.

Vos said he's personally open to boosting registration fees, creating tolls and starting a miles-driven tax. But, said Vos: "The governor has got to lead on it."

Fitzgerald also said some of his members are cautious about additional tax cuts in light of the projected budget shortfall and Senate Republicans don't have the appetite for a gas tax hike.
Vos’s quotes are especially precious. The guy who says he wants to reduce the size of government also is open to starting up toll roads and installing a detector in people’s cars to monitor how many miles they’ve driven. Real small government there.

And you gotta love how Vos isn’t backing away from ideas that would raise the state’s $75 vehicle registration fee, which makes me interested in hearing what he thinks about the 2.5% “new car sales tax” that’s in the DOT’s budget request.

As the Transportation Fund condition shows , (on Pages 6-7 of this report), the gas tax is the largest source of revenue that the state’s Transportation Fund receives every year. Given that the state’s ongoing major expressway projects have to paid for somehow, if the gas tax isn’t going to be raised, there will have to be some significant fee increase and/or more of that “fiscally conservative” borrowing.

Top Sources of revenue for Trans. Fund, FY 2014
Gas taxes $999.4 million
Reg. Fees $658.1 million ($215.8 million of this pays off debt)
Transfers into fund $57.8 million (will be $189.6 million FY 2015)
Driver’s License Fees $39.2 million
EVERYTHING ELSE $87.5 million

Maybe what Vossy and Fitz will do is pass these costs off to the local governments of Wisconsin, either directly or indirectly. We are already seeing officials from the Superior area asking the Legislature to give it the freedom to levy a local sales tax to pay for roads, and drivers in Iowa County, Chippewa County, the City of Appleton and the City of Beloit will be paying new or increased vehicle registration fees this year to help their local communities plow and maintain the streets. This is a direct result of state aids not keeping up with the needs of these communities, and with the DOT and General Fund budgets being as deficit-ridden as they are, don’t expect those needs to be assuaged by extra dollars coming from Madison in future years.

So it’s not even mid-January, and already the leaders in the WisGOP Legislature are starting to realize that all of their tax-cutting and giveaways to campaign contributors (cough…ROAD BUILDERS….cough) is leading to a tough Transportation budget for the coming session, and it is likely that another “pose over reality” move would lead to an even heavier toll (how’s that for a pun!). Sure makes you wonder what kind of shell game Gov Walker, Robbin and Fitzy is going to try to cook up to stay on the good side of their big-money backers, while also not alienating the small towns through crumbling local roads, and those obnoxious laws of math.

1 comment:

  1. Their conundrum is daunting. How do they increase revenue by $2.2 billion without increasing taxes? Umm, their only revenue of substance is tax (and fee) revenue. So, how do they satisfy the road builder donor base with no new revenue? Well, they will attempt a 'reverse triple lindy' by trying to swipe the road money back from the deficit laden general fund. An entertaining few months ahead.

    Smaller government? Prisons, schools and medicaid can't really be cut back. Not many cut opportunities left.