As state revenues fall, WISDOT request for increased taxes/fees could be more probable
MADISON (WKOW) -- State revenue collections released Friday show the state's projected budget deficit of $2.2 billion by June of 2017 could climb even higher, making it more likely the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's (WISDOT) request to increase some taxes and fees on drivers could be approved.
The Wisconsin Department of Administration released the $2.2 billion deficit figure Thursday, but that assumed a state revenue growth of five percent for fiscal year 2015 (FY15) which started in July.
Numbers released by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue on Friday show collections are far off that pace. From July through October, revenues are actually down nearly three percent.
As much as $900 million of the projected shortfall will come from the WISDOT budget, something Secretary Mark Gottlieb blames on cheaper gas and more fuel efficient vehicles. His plan to cover that gap includes a five cent per gallon increase in the state gasoline tax and a 10 cent per gallon increase for diesel fuel.
"I think that's a small price to pay to drive on good, safe roads," said Milwaukee attorney Mark Thomsen, who stopped to fill up his car at a Madison gas station Friday afternoon.
But that feeling is hardly universal. Driver John Ehret says he believes the WISDOT budget is bloated and the agency shouldn't be charging him more to cover their expenses.
"I'm a hard-working guy and everybody else is and you know, that little bit of extra money is something that could go towards other things," said Ehret.
A fee increase on new vehicle purchases of 2.5 percent is also being proposed. That would equate to a $500 fee on a $20,000 car or truck.
"We do have to pay for quality of life and you have to figure out how to make our roads safe and anybody that's been driving around this winter knows it's been a mess," said Thomsen.
But some studies suggest it's WISDOT's budgeting that's a mess. The Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) says the $950 million plan to widen I-39/90 from four to six lanes south of Madison was based on a projected 29 percent growth in traffic back in 2000. But WISPIRG claims the actual increase has been just one percent.
Still Secretary Gottlieb says the extra money is needed and believes he could get it, even though Republicans ran on a platform of lowering taxes.
Another plan to raise revenues would be a $50 increase in annual license plate registration fees for hybrid or electric vehicle owners.
WISDOT's proposed budget request must first go before the Legislative Joint Finance Committee early next year.
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