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Skepticism of higher gas tax still strong in latest Marquette survey

A newly released poll suggests opposition is growing to a central part of Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed transportation budget: higher gas taxes for more roadwork.

In the first Marquette University Law School Poll released since January, voters expressed more skepticism than in the past about the prospect of paying higher gas taxes. Evers wants to raise gas taxes for the first time since 2006. Specifically, he wants to raise them by nearly a dime by the end of his biennial budget to bring in an additional $608 million in transportation revenue. What’s more, Evers would have the tax rise automatically with inflation in future years.

Wisconsin roads are routinely ranked among the worst in the country. A Marquette Poll released in October suggested that although voters may not welcome a gas-tax increase, they also aren’t happy with the shape of Wisconsin roads. Sixty-four percent of the respondent to that poll said the state’s roads were in fair or poor condition.

Still, only a minority say they are willing to pay more.

Of the respondents to the Marquette Poll released on Wednesday, 57% said they prefer keeping gas taxes and vehicle-registration fees where they are, and 39% said they support raising taxes in exchange for increased spending on roads and highways.

Before this latest poll, a Marquette poll released on Jan. 25 had found that 52% of the respondents opposed higher taxes for roads, and only 42% supported an increase.

In general, the latest Marquette University Law School poll showed mixed results for Evers, who is battling with the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to enact a two-year state budget. The poll comes about four months into Evers’ term, which has been marked by legal fights with Republicans over a lame-duck legislative session GOP lawmakers called before he took office.

A clear sign of discord between Evers and GOP leaders came in mid-March, when Republicans on the state building commission rejected every proposal in the governor’s $2.5 billion capital budget request.

When gauged by public opinion, the Legislature and Evers came out about the same in the latest Marquette poll. About half of the respondents said they approve of the Legislature, and 47% said the same of Evers. The results were within the poll’s 4-point margin of error. The poll surveyed 800 registered voters in Wisconsin between April 3 and Sunday.

The public appears to be siding with Evers in his relationship with the Legislature. The poll said that 48% believe he is trying to cooperate with Republican legislative leaders, but only 25% believe they are trying to work with him.

Meanwhile, the Marquette poll also found that public opinion is “fluctuating” on the Foxconn project. Of the respondents, 41% said offering the company $4.5 billion worth of subsidies will turn out to be worthwhile, whereas 47% think it won’t. In late October, 41% said the project would pay off, and 40% said it wouldn’t.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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