As lawmakers push towards reaching a deal that will allow a state budget to pass, a possible plan to pay for transportation with a new tax on heavy trucks is raising concerns among Wisconsin’s business leaders.
The plan, which has not been formally introduced, could include a 2.85 cent per mile traveled tax on trucks carrying cargo in the state. Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Senior Vice President of Government Relations Scott Manley says that could end up costing businesses operating in Wisconsin up to $135 million a year, which would be a massive increase in their costs. “That is going to significantly increase the cost of doing business for a lot of really important industries in our state,” he argues, including manufacturers and agricultural producers.
Ultimately, Manley warns it will be consumers who end up paying more for the products on store shelves, as prices are increased to help cover the cost of the tax.
Advocates for the tax argue heavy trucks cause the most wear and tear on roads, so it makes sense for them to pay more towards the cost of repairing and replacing those routes. Manley notes that, while heavy trucks make up about 10 percent of the traffic on the state’s roads, they do currently pay about 38 percent of the fees that go into the transportation budget. “They are already paying more, and they’re actually paying more than their fair share without this extra tax.”
The plan is one of several options lawmakers are considering as they continue working to resolve a stalemate on passing a state budget. It remains unclear what level of support the idea has among most Republicans and Governor Scott Walker, although at least one lawmaker has publicly voiced opposition. Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) says he “vigorously opposes” including such a tax in the state budget, and pledged to oppose any tax increase included in the plan.