Panel looks for ways to fund transportationEvery day, people throughout Wisconsin rely on our comprehensive transportation network to get to work, appointments and other destinations.
By: By Transportation Finance and Policy Commission, Superior Telegram
Every day, people throughout Wisconsin rely on our comprehensive transportation network to get to work, appointments and other destinations. There’s a public expectation that the system of roads, airports, buses and other transportation options be accessible 24/7 and be maintained to be safe and efficient. Most people rarely think about how transportation contributes to the quality of their lives and their economic well-being until it becomes unreliable, unsafe, inconvenient or totally unavailable.
Wisconsin’s Transportation Finance and Policy Commission was created to examine issues related to the future of transportation. Quite simply, our funding models are outdated and inadequate to support today’s modern, multi-modal transportation network. Much of the state’s infrastructure is aging and improvement needs are growing.
Meanwhile, the revenue generated from vehicle registration fees and gas taxes is flat and projected to remain so. Among the reasons: More fuel-efficient vehicles and the combination of higher fuel prices and economic challenges that impact overall travel. Existing taxes and fees will not generate the funds needed to meet future transportation needs.
The Commission’s analysis determined that over the next 10 years the gap between the basic needs of Wisconsin’s multimodal transportation network and projected revenues is about $6.8 billion. As public officials, business owners, workers and travelers, we all have an interest in maintaining the safety and efficiency of our transportation network.
The Commission held over a dozen meetings and public listening sessions to gather information and input. The Commission’s report titled, Keep Wisconsin Moving – Smart Investments, Measurable Results, provides a balanced approach to investing in transportation.
The plan calls for increased annual investments of nearly $480 million across all modes of travel. While this is a significant funding recommendation, analysis shows it is the minimum amount needed to maintain existing road and bridge conditions, allow important highway projects to go forward and make some multimodal improvements.
To generate revenue, the Commission proposes a five-cent per gallon increase in the state gas tax; a new mileage-based vehicle registration fee; a $20 increase in the eight-year driver license fee; elimination of the sales tax exemption on the trade-in value of a vehicle and an increase in fees for heavy trucks. If these increases were adopted, Wisconsin’s taxes and fees would still provide a good value and be lower than other Midwestern states. Fees for a typical Wisconsin passenger vehicle would increase by only 33 cents per day or about $120 a year.
The Commission also advanced policy changes, including limits on borrowing, support for a state constitutional amendment to protect the integrity of the transportation fund, addressing the impact of inflation on transportation revenues in the future and authorizing the creation of regional transportation authorities to fund local needs.
The Commission’s recommendations are advisory to the legislature and the governor. Get involved. Learn more about the plan at www.dot.wisconsin.gov/about/tfp/index.htm. There’s plenty of room to debate how to adequately and equitably fund transportation needs. But there’s no disputing the core problem: Advances in vehicle technology and changes in driver behavior have made our existing, decades-old transportation funding system obsolete. Making smart transportation investments will provide measurable results that benefit residents and businesses throughout the state and keep Wisconsin moving.
Members of Wisconsin’s Transportation Finance and Policy Commission appointed citizen members include: John Antaramian of Kenosha; Tom Carlsen of Madison; Dave Cieslewicz of Madison; Robert Cook of Madison; Barbara Fleisner LaMue of Green Bay; Martin Hanson of Eau Claire; William Hanson of Dodgeville; Robb Kahl of Monona; Craig Thompson of Madison; and Tom Vandenberg of Green Bay.