By Benjamin Yount for Watchdog.org
Republicans at the Wisconsin Capitol are promising to gut Gov. Tony Evers’ spending budget proposal.
The governor’s proposal to expand Medicaid: Gone. The governor’s suggestion to start a medical marijuana program: Gone. All talk of a minimum wage increase in Wisconsin: Gone.
But Republicans are leaving the governor’s proposed gas tax increase largely as is.
“I would be open to an increase in the gas tax with a sunset,” state Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah told News Talk 1130 WISN Friday morning. “Meaning that that gas tax could come off in two, three, four, fives years.”
Rohrkaste is not the only Republican eyeing a gas tax increase.
Both state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and state Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, were silent about the gas tax increase’s future at a news conference earlier this week where they pronounced the “unsustainable and irresponsible” parts of Evers’ budget dead.
The governor wants to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax by nine cents a gallon. He’s proposing to use the money raised to build and maintain highways and local roads across the state.
Wisconsin drivers currently pay 33 cents a gallon in state taxes and another 19 cents in federal taxes. Rohrkaste is not saying how high Republicans may raise the tax.
Rohrkaste said a gas tax increase could be a temporary solution to the state’s transportation needs. The emphasis is on “temporary.”
“In the long run, the gas tax is not sustainable with increasing fuel efficiency, hybrid, and electric [cars],” Rohrkaste said. “Over time, our transportation funding source will decline at a faster pace than the needs of our weather and our economy.”
Rohrkaste said Wisconsin’s economic boom is built largely on manufacturing and farming, and both industries put a lot of pressure on roads across the state.
There are, of course, a chorus of people and groups at the Wisconsin Capitol who are also making the case for more road money.
Republican lawmakers have been listening to many of them at town halls and local meetings for the past few weeks.
But there are just as many, if not more, voters across the state who don’t want to pay more. A recent Marquette Law School poll showed that 57 percent of people oppose a gas tax increase.
“I totally understand people’s concerns,” Rohrkaste said. “But we need a totally different solution for transportation in the state.”
Rohrkaste and other lawmakers on Wisconsin’s Joint Committee on Finance will meet next week to start voting on pieces of the budget.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for Watchdog.org. Reposted with permission.