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No promises on roads

Delegates garnered support for the idea of creating an exposition district, but another issue important to Douglas County didn't garner any promises.

Yet some remain hopeful that as legislators tackle options for the state's transportation budget, creating a pilot project to allow Douglas County to implement a local option sales tax will be among the measures considered.

The local option sales tax, if approved by the legislature, would allow Douglas County to create a half-percent sales tax to fund road projects with voter approval. The tax would sunset after four years unless renewed by voters.

"What we're hearing is the transportation funding solution has yet to be put together," said Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak. "And I think that what we're seeing is people are looking at all options. And this will hopefully be in the mix when they consider the big solution for it."

Lisak said while there were no commitments to include the local option sales tax, there were people interested in the proposal.

"I think people are looking at all options," Lisak said.

"As I visited with people and talked to them about this ... we've got to put some money into infrastructure," said Dave Minor, president and CEO of the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County. He said after all, it affects local residents, tourism, and trucking and industry, and it's an option that would give the legislature time to figure out how it's going to fund transportation.

More than 80 percent of Chamber members were in support of the proposal when it was first presented to them more than three years ago.

"Philosophically, the administration is opposed to any new taxes and fees," said Dave Ross, secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation during a meeting with the delegation last week. "We're very concerned about the cumulative tax burden on people."

However, Douglas County Supervisors pointed out that the cost of driving on roads in poor condition is going to cost more than the tax would.

"People want that because they see the need in our roads as every day when you drive them," Minor said. "They come back to this thing they don't want to see taxes raised. Well no one does, but we need things done."

Wisconsin Public Radio, 91.3 KUWS-FM in Superior, contributed to this report.