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Milwaukee County Board Chairman calls for referendum on $60 wheel tax

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Theodore Lipscomb is saying that local residents shouldn’t have to pay a proposed annual wheel tax without first having a say at the ballot box.

County Executive Chris Abele has called for requiring local vehicle owners to pay a $60 wheel tax ever year. The fee would come on top not only of the $75 registration fee vehicle owners already pay to the state but also the $20 wheel tax now charged in the city of Milwaukee.

Seeking to raise additional money for transportation and transit projects, Abele has added the wheel-tax proposal to his 2017 budget plan. If adopted, the tax is expected to generate $27 million a year. Abele has called for using two-thirds of the money for work on parkways, roads and bridges and the rest to pay for public transportation.

Abele argued the wheel tax is the only means the county has of raising more money its transportation projects. Several county board members have countered by arguing that the tax will impose too great a burden on residents.

Lipscomb has also proposed cutting the $60 wheel tax in half. He introduced both his referendum and $30 wheel tax proposals on Monday to the county’s Finance and Audit Committee. To make up for the revenue that would be lost from cutting the wheel tax in half, he called for reducing the county’s expenses by $13.6 million.

The Finance and Audit Committee voted to recommend both proposals to the full county board, which is scheduled to meet next Monday to vote on the 2017 budget.

“We should let the residents vote on whether or not a $60 wheel tax is the right way to fund our transportation budget in the future,” Lipscomb said in a news release. “This year, (Abele) introduced his $60 wheel tax proposal with very little time for the public to consider it, and he failed to sell it to the citizens of Milwaukee County.”

According to the news release, the referendum question would read: “Do you support County Executive Abele’s proposal for a $60 Vehicle Registration Fee (wheel tax) to provide designated funding for transit and transportation-related projects?”

The referendum would be held in April, on the same day as next year’s spring election.

About Alex Zank, [email protected]

Alex Zank is a construction reporter for The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at 414-225-1820.

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