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Communities Turn To Wheel Tax For Road Maintenance

Increased Registration Fees Backfilling Stagnant State Funding

AP Photo/Seth Perlman

More local governments are looking into raising vehicle registration fees to keep up with road and highway repairs.

Fifteen municipalities and counties are already tacking $10 to $20 onto vehicle registration to pay for local road maintenance, and now Milwaukee County, Marathon County, Wausau, Portage and Green Bay are considering following suit.

Dan Fedderly of the Wisconsin County Highway Association points to a decade of stagnant road funding from the state that’s left locals with little choice.

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“We just simply need to address what has been a pending dilemma for many years and has got to the point where it is in crisis mode for many local units of government across the state,” Fedderly said.

The state’s transportation budget has been running a deficit for years as the main road funding mechanism—a 30.9-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline—has failed to provide enough revenue to keep up with road maintenance costs.

Fedderly hopes the wheel tax debate pushes state lawmakers to find a new revenue source for road maintenance.

“As the transportation budget and funding for transportation falls short on a regular basis, as it has over the last decade, these communities start to look at it, and the more communities that look at it the more emphasis there is on what the crisis in transportation funding really is,” Fedderly said.

Some Republican legislative leaders like Assemblyman John Nygren of Marinette and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Burlington have been more open to raising the state’s gas tax or registration fees this year.

Gov. Scott Walker said he opposes such moves.