A new study suggests Wisconsin needs to rethink the way it funds transportation projects. The report done by researchers at the UW-Madison and released by 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin found that the state fully funds the roads it owns, but gas taxes and other fees support only a portion of the cost of maintaining local roads.
Steve Hiniker, the group’s executive director, says most people believe when they fill up their gas tank the taxes they pay are funding all of the roads they drive on. The reality, he says, is that only about half the costs of local roads are covered through those taxes. Hiniker says the rest comes from about 20 percent of local property taxes collections.
Hiniker says the discrepancy is a problem because most local governments are facing serious budget problems, which could force them to choose between maintaining local roads or cutting other services. He says the state needs to go back to the drawing board and do a serious reallocation of transportation dollars.
To fully fund roads through fees, Hiniker says gas taxes would need to be increased by 50-cents a gallon. He admits that’s not likely to happen, and the more probable outcome is local governments will do less road maintenance because of tight budgets.