Republican lawmakers in Madison are facing more questions from the right over their plan to possibly create a per-mile fee for drivers in the state.
Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin is the latest to voice opposition to a study included in the Republican’s proposed transportation budget that is ostensibly aimed at the feasibility of a mileage fee.
Eric Bott, AFP’s state director in Wisconsin, says the study is really the first step toward a new tax on drivers.
“This so-called ‘study’ approved by [the Joint Finance Committee] would also give the Committee the complete authority to institute a per mileage fee program without any additional oversight from the entirety of the legislature or the executive branch,” Bott wrote in an open letter to lawmakers. “The language does not limit what the fee could be or how much tracking the government can do of your driving.”
Republicans on the state’s budget writing panel, the Joint Finance Committee, last week voted to include $2.5 million for a study on a mileage fee.
But the proposal they agreed to goes well beyond just a study.
JFC members gave themselves the power to decide if a per-mile fee is needed, what those fees would cost, and whether those fees need to increase at any time.
JFC members would be the only ones to vote on the fees, the full State Assembly and State Senate would not have to act.
“A mere 16 members of a legislative committee would determine if the government can track your mileage and charge you a yet-to-be-determined fee – an unprecedented authority for a legislative committee,” Bott’s letter said.
In reality, 16 lawmakers wouldn’t need to vote to raise the fees, just a majority of the Joint Finance Committee would have to agree to raise the fees.
“Under the proposal, nine votes is all it would take for government to start tracking how we drive and assessing a massive new tax. That’s not democracy as we know it,” Bott said. “Our system of democracy and our state constitution require politicians to vote on tax increases. This is an attempt to shirk that responsibility.”
There is no guess as to how much a per-mile fee on drivers would cost. Though Republicans are looking to raise nearly $500 million more for roads in the new state budget. Much of that money would come from increases in license plate fees, a new hybrid car fee, and an increase in the cost to transfer a car title.
It’s parts of a nearly $2 billion construction plan to build and fix roads across the state.
“The transportation budget passed by JFC includes other revenue increases, paid for by hardworking Wisconsinites. The increases in title fees and annual registration fees can and should be enough,” Bott wrote in his letter. “We need to focus on sustainable transportation funding, which includes many of the reforms to the Department introduced by your colleagues, not an invasive and costly per mile fee.”
Bottom line, Bott said, is that taxpayers deserve better than a shadowy process that could end up costing them for years and years to come.
“The policy included in the June 6th transportation omnibus motion that gives the Joint Committee on Finance unilateral authority to impose a per mile fee on Wisconsinites is a dangerous precedent to set for our democracy, our privacy and our pocketbooks,” Bott added.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.