By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Taxes and fees for drivers in Wisconsin would go up by $751 million over the next two years, including everything from a higher tax on gasoline to a new annual fee on those who drive fuel-efficient hybrid and electric vehicles, under the state Department of Transportation Budget submitted Friday.
The budget proposal turned over to Gov. Scott Walker just 10 days after he won re-election would plug a projected $680 million shortfall with the higher taxes and fees and a greater reliance on general fund tax revenue.
Walker will consider the request when putting together the budget he submits early next year covering all state operations, including the University of Wisconsin System, public schools, prisons, and public assistance programs including Medicaid.
The Republican-controlled Legislature will then make changes to Walker’s request and pass a budget usually in late June, although Walker is calling on them to act faster next year to make Wisconsin a counter to what he calls a “dysfunctional” federal government.
For Republicans who ran on cutting taxes, and who are on the record opposing any gas tax increase, the WisDOT request will be a major speed bump to fast passage of the budget.
Walker and legislative leaders were saying little about the tax hike proposal.
Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the governor will review the WisDOT request along with other requests as he puts together his budget.
“He looks forward to hearing from constituents and working with stakeholders and legislative leaders on putting forward a solution in the budget,” Patrick said.
Spokeswomen for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said only that they were reviewing the proposal. A spokeswoman for Rep. John Nygren, co-chair of the budget committee, had no comment.
WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb, a former Republican state representative appointed to his position by Walker, would not say whether the governor had indicated support to him. But Gottlieb called the budget a balanced approach designed to offer a broad-based solution to paying for the state’s transportation needs.
“By any measure, this request is ambitious and far reaching,” Gottlieb said in the cover letter.
The proposal drew praise from the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Transportation Investment Coalition, a group that includes road builders, labor unions and others that support spending more on transportation.
“This proposal recognizes the fact that Wisconsin’s existing transportation financing sources will not meet the long-term needs of our transportation network,” said John Gard, executive director of the coalition and a former Republican speaker of the Assembly.
Major parts of the plan, as outlined by Gottlieb in a call with reporters, include:
— Changing the state’s gas tax to include a variable component that would change annually based on the wholesale price of fuel in the state. To be implemented in September, the tax would increase 5 cents a gallon on gas and 10 cents a gallon for diesel fuel. Gottlieb said the typical driver of a late-model sedan would pay $27 more a year under the change.
— Impose a fee on new vehicle purchases that would amount to $800 on a $32,000 vehicle.
— Charge $50 every year on electric and hybrid car owners “to ensure these owners continue to pay their fair share of the operating costs of our infrastructure,” Gottlieb wrote to Walker and lawmakers.
— Increase money taken from the general fund from $133 million to nearly $574 million.
— Decrease the use of debt from bonds by $186 million.