Wisconsin is a step closer to preventing fuel tax revenue from being used for non-transportation state spending. State Senator Jerry Petrowski introduced a constitutional amendment which passed the last session of the Legislature, but must pass again in this session before it can go to a statewide referendum.
The Republican lawmaker says the bill is already well on its way in the new session. ”It was voted out of committee in both houses, and it’s going to be on the floor very soon.”
The senator says fuel tax dollars were intended to be used to maintain the transportation system, and there have been times when fuel tax was diverted to the general fund.
Petrowski, who chairs the senate’s transportation panel, is optimistic the constitutional amendment will be approved by lawmakers before heading to the voters of Wisconsin. “When we pass this, it’s going to go to a vote of the people in November of 2014, and that will be the last time that money gets taken out of transportation for other reasons.”
Former Governor Jim Doyle took $1.2 billion dollars from transportation to balance the budget in 2010.
Saving fuel tax dollars for transportation won’t solve the problems with the highway budget. Petrowski believes other revenue sources will be necessary to build and maintain bridges and highways. “There’s less revenue coming into the transportation fund, plus the expenses are going up all the time. Asphalt, concrete, steel, iron, they all continue to go up in cost, but the revenue coming in to the transportation fund because of more fuel-efficient cars and people driving less.”
Petrowski says even with the constitutional amendment protecting designated dollars for transportation, Wisconsin is going to have to figure out where additional revenue is going to come from. He supports using a portion of existing sales taxes from automotive parts and services to help make up the shortfall.