Governor Scott Walker floats the idea of replacing the traditional gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline and alternative fuels for vehicles, saying it could help stabilize the state transportation fund as it faces a $680 million shortfall in the next biennial budget.
Walker gave scant details on his plan during an editorial meeting with the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday, but elaborates a bit on Tuesday when meeting with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board and reporters.
Walker points out fuel-efficient vehicles don’t generate enough revenue from the gas tax. “The gas tax is based on gallons of gas purchased,” he says. “As the gallons of gas go down, the gas tax collections go down, even though those vehicles put the same wear and tear – if not more – on the roads and infrastructure.”
Craig Thompson heads the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association. He says more information is needed on the proposal. “Well, without knowing all the details, it’s a little hard to say, but there are other states in the country who have looked at these sorts of things.”
Walker suggests his idea would be a more stable source of revenue, rather than relying on fuel usage. A bipartisan state transportation commission has recommended, among other things, an increase in the state gas tax and a higher driver’s license registration fee to help generate revenue to maintain the state’s roadways. Those ideas were rejected by Republicans.
Thompson says he needs more details before he can fully comprehend or comment on the governor’s proposal. “I think you have to give the governor credit for putting some ideas on the table. Many of the media have asked both candidates to do that and he’s started that conversation.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke doesn’t like the idea, which would make fuel taxes for motorists go up or down based on the fluctuation of prices at the pump, rather than hinging on the actual amount of gas pumped into the tank. “Pegging it and having it be a sales tax rather than on a gallon of gas actually subjects it to wide fluctuations because of the changes in prices of gas. So, I think it probably doesn’t work very well. I would be looking to address the real issue.”
Walker’s idea comes just three weeks before he faces Democrat Mary Burke in the general election November 4th.