Critics are coming out of the shadows after Gov. Scott Walker said last week that changes would be made to the state Transportation Department’s budget request.
Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb announced a budget that included an increase in the gas tax, fees on the purchases of new cars and a registration surcharge for owners of hybrid or electric vehicles. The new taxes and fees are intended to boost the Transportation Department’s revenue by $751 million over two years.
On Monday, a coalition of business groups issued a statement opposing Gottlieb’s taxes and fees, saying they could put businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The coalition included Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and groups representing car dealers, grocery stores, the trucking industry, convenience stores and others.
If one accepts that the state needs to do more to develop and maintain its transportation network, the plan the Transportation Department submitted has some commendable features. It changes the formula for the gas tax to put an inflation factor back in. That’s useful. The fee on new cars varies with the price of the car, which taxes luxury cars more than economy cars. That’s a progressive tax.
On the issue of fairness, however, the fee on new car purchases and the extra registration fee on hybrid cars, are lacking. The hybrid tax — $50 is the amount proposed — is a punishment for not buying as much gas as other cars. The new car fee is essentially another sales tax on top of what would already be paid.
Even if one doesn’t accept that the state needs more money for road building, decisions need to be made, because present funding mechanisms are not sufficient to pay for all the projects that have been scheduled.
Critics of Gottlieb’s plan ought to come up with their own ways of cutting the Transportation Department budget or increasing its revenue. If gas taxes and registration fees aren’t producing the necessary revenue, something has to change.
The governor will eventually have to release his own plan for transportation funding along with everything else in the state budget. All the other critics will probably just wait for the governor’s plan, but they really ought to help come up with alternatives. It’s not easy to come up with ways to raise money that the public sees as fair.
— Kenosha News