Republican transportation plan outlined
By Ben Rodgers
State Rep. Kevin Petersen outlined a Republican transportation plan at the Waupaca County Towns Association quarterly meeting on May 18 in Manawa.
“I’ll be honest I’m one of the people causing the problem and many of you are too,” Petersen said. “I drive over 3,000 miles a month.”
Petersen was talking about the deteriorating state of Wisconsin roads and Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to borrow $500 million to repair them.
Petersen broke down the price of gas and how much of that is taxes. He came up with 32.9 cents (with the current average gas price of $2.29) of every gallon of gas sold is taxes.
Part of that rate is the retail minimum markup of 6 percent, designed to protect mom and pop stores from big competitors, he said.
He said state assembly Republicans are considering dropping the wholesale minimum markup of 3 percent, and instituting a state sales tax on gas sales that would be used for transportation projects.
“The gas station owners might not be happy with that, but if we really look at a gas station, is the money made at the pump or when they go inside?” Petersen asked.
The money from this could be used to pay down the cost of Walker’s bond, or pay for projects without using a bond. The price per gallon could actual drop by 1 cent.
But this is still plan and requires support from the other side of the aisle.
“Everything I’m saying here tonight has to be negotiated in Madison yet, and that’s easier said then it’s done down there,” Petersen said. He also said there would be some conditions to the plan, if the Republican assembly gets its way.
“I would never vote for an upper in the gas tax or the sales tax unless there was some downers along the way,” Petersen said.
He wants hybrid cars to pay an extra $30 in registration fees and electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt or Tesla cars to pay an extra $125 in registration fees, as they do not fill up on gas as often.
This is because gas sales are flat, or even decreasing, but road usage is up.
He wants any existing or future wheel taxes to go to referendum. As he feels that should be the choice of the voters in those municipalities.
Petersen also wants the state to apply to the federal government to explore the possibility of tolls in Wisconsin. Tolls are currently illegal and if Wisconsin opened any, it would lose all federal transportation funding.
He wants the state to terminate DOT engineers and use private contractors to design any projects and bid for them.
Petersen also wants transportation projects to go through the Assembly for approval, among other things.
“That’s the Republican state Assembly plan that you won’t read about or hear about in the news,” Petersen said.
The Republican also discussed the governor’s plan to get rid of the forestry mill tax for Wisconsin.
According to him, this shows up on property taxes as “State of Wisconsin” and accrues roughly $80 million a year for the conservation fund for the Department of Natural Resources.
“The question for you is do you think it takes $80 million a year to run the state forestry program? No,” Petersen said.
He said the governor is proposing to take a look at the “slush fund” and decide what items being paid for are worth keeping, and what are not.
The legislature currently has no say over what that fund pays for. But some things Petersen mentioned that it does cover are grants used for ATVs and UTVs for municipalities and roughly $30 million still used for forestry.
In other news Jackie Beyer was named the new chair of the Waupaca County Towns Association. She replaces Arden Sellin, who moved to vice chair.