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Around the Water Cooler

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QUESTION: With Gov. Scott Walker holding firm to his pledge to not raise gas taxes without finding a way to offset the increase with budget cuts elsewhere, how likely is it that tolling will eventually play a part in rebuilding Wisconsin’s roads?

Jim Hoffman, president of Hoffman Construction, Black River Falls: “Toll ways may help in the long term, five to 10 years from now, but Congress and Wisconsin have to authorize and funds have to be available to build out the tollway infrastructure (license plate readers, etc.).  Tollways are only part of a long-term solution and won’t be part of meeting current needs.”

John Schulze, director of legal and government affairs at the Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin: “Toll roads are a definite option as a user fee — those who use the roads the most would pay the most, including those from outside Wisconsin. With Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House, I think Wisconsin toll roads are more likely now than ever before. But, toll roads are not an immediate solution, unlike Legislators Stroebel & Brooks’ Assembly Bill 565 and Senate Bill 411. As soon as either of these bills became law, local governments would save millions in road project costs.”

Terry McGowan, president and business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139: “While I was very glad to see a five-year federal highway budget that addresses critical projects; however, I feel the feds are still digging under the couch cushions to fund it with no real sustainable revenue for the future needs of our federal program. That being said, we see many more legislators in Washington willing to have the conversation about allowing states to toll interstate highways than we did just five years ago. If federal legislators aren’t willing to find a reliable revenue source, it only makes sense to allow individual states to make that decision at the time an interstate highway, within their boundary, needs rebuilding.”

Ken Kraemer, executive director of Building Advantage: “I don’t think road tolls are the best option for Wisconsin. I think a simpler solution would be to take a serious look at increasing the gas tax while gas prices continue to drop. Then, make sure that funds from the increased gas tax could only be applied to Department of Transportation projects, preferably road construction.”

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