By Benjamin Yount for The Center Square
Of all of the things that could derail Wisconsin’s budget, the first roadblock looks to be something that both Democrats and Republicans in Madison agree on: Building and fixing the state’s roads.
Gov. Tony Evers said he doesn’t like the proposal from legislative Republicans to increase fees on license plates and car sales as a way to pay for new roads in the state.
“People from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, aren’t paying for using our roads. It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” the governor told reporters at the Capitol. “That’s just my personal view of doubling the fees or more.”
Republicans on the state’s budget writing panel, the Joint Finance Committee, voted earlier this month to boost license plate fees for cars in Wisconsin from $75 to $85. The fee for light trucks and SUV’s would jump from $75 to $100. Lawmakers also approved a new electric vehicle fee of $100, and a fee for hybrid vehicles that will cost drivers $75. The biggest increase would come when people buy or sell a car. The title fee in Wisconsin would more than double in the new budget, from $69.50 to $164.50
In all, Republicans want to spend $484 million on road construction and repair in the new two-year state budget.
Evers wanted to spend $624 million. He would have paid that spending with a $500 million increase in Wisconsin’s gas tax.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Tuesday said raising the gas tax would cost drivers in the state much more than the fee hikes that Republicans are pitching.
“The gas tax would go up 10 cents, that’s what Gov. Evers’ proposal was,” Vos said. “That is more expensive on an average Wisconsin driver than it would be for us to utilize the titling system, which only happens once every five or six years.”
The showdown over how much, and how to spend, money on roads in the state is a preview of what could be a larger budget battle.
Republicans spent most of May and June stripping Evers’ budget and replacing it with their own priorities.
Vos said the budget that is headed for a vote in Madison, and then likely to the governor, meets the needs of the state.
“Our budget is fiscally prudent,” Vos said. “And it continues to say we want to find savings.”
There is about $4 billion more in new spending in Vos’ Republican budget. There is also a proposal for about $450 million in income tax cuts.
Evers’ budget also included a middle class tax cut, but his plan would have spent $6 billion more.
Evers can make radical changes to the budget that lawmakers give him – his veto pen is one of the most powerful in the country. Evers can cross-out entire sections of the proposed spending plan if he’d like. But Evers cannot add money or programs that are not already in the budget.
The governor is not yet saying how, or if, he will use his veto pen.
“Certainly we’re looking at all the things that have been passed, and certainly there’s lots of things that we have concerns about,” the governor said Monday. “But at the end of the day we won’t be making any decisions until we look at what comes out of both houses.”
Vos said the Republican budget plan will likely come up for a vote next week.
Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.