6/5/2016, Kenosha News – Gov. Scott Walker last week made clear that he would propose no increases in gasoline taxes or registration fees in order to boost the budget for highway repairs.
That means that highway projects across the state will probably be delayed or will take longer to complete because of budget constraints. Gasoline taxes have not risen for years as vehicles have become more fuel-efficient. A frozen transportation budget is not likely to be adequate for the state’s needs.
In Kenosha, a constrained transportation budget could mean a delay in the reconstruction of Highway 50 (75th Street) from Cooper Road to the intersection with I-94. That is scheduled to start in 2020.
Another project that could be affected is the rebuilding of Highway 158 (52nd Street). That project has been “penciled in” for 2030, but it is not actually on a schedule yet.
Walker said he doesn’t want to raise taxes.
But road projects are popular with the public and with the business community, and many legislative leaders, including some in the Republican Party, think the state needs to do more to improve the condition of the state’s roads and bridges. Many of them have previously advocated increases in fees or taxes.
While gasoline prices are higher than they were last winter, they are still lower than they have been in recent years. An increase in the gas tax would be more palatable now, when gas costs $2.40 a gallon, than when it was near $4.
When the state puts money in highways, it is making an investment in future economic activity. For a governor who has talked a lot about job creation, Walker’s willingness to let Wisconsin’s investment in transportation slowly deteriorate is puzzling.
Gas taxes and registration fees at their current levels are not going to generate the investment in transportation that Wisconsin needs.
Either the governor or legislative leaders need to come up with a plan to boost that investment.