NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Here comes an interesting test for Governor Scott Walker.
He’s opposed to higher taxes. That’s part of Walker’s “brand” – a conservative, tax-cutter.
His own transportation advisory commission is about to recommend a tax increase. The governor said during his State of the State address that transportation infrastructure is a top priority. What will the governor do?
Here’s the background: Wisconsin has done long range planning for future road projects. Think of it as a wish-list for the next decade. Those projects will cost about $5-billion more than what the state estimates will be available in the road construction fund. $5-billion is a big number. The budget shortfall when Walker took office was $3-billion.
The group will make its recommendations next week. They’ll propose a 5-cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax. They’ll also propose a 1-cent-per-mile road usage surcharge, or, if there’s no political will for that, they’d raise vehicle registration fees by $55 a year.
All of those are lousy ideas.
A tax is a tax is a tax. Our governor is right to oppose higher income taxes and sales taxes. A gas tax is no different. I don’t care how that tax comes out of my wallet. More clever minds might spin this as a user fee instead of a tax, since how much you pay depends on how much you drive. No matter. It’s still a tax.
The gas tax goes into a special fund to pay specifically for road project. The state’s road builders consider that fund their special carve-out. (Consider their opposition for the Madison-to-Milwaukee train.) Road interests are political supporters of Walker’s.
If the governor can say ‘no’ to higher taxes to pay for social welfare programs, he should also be able to say ‘no’ to his friends in the construction industry. The message should be simple. Cut back the road-building wish list. Choose less expensive alternatives. Live within your means – just like every other state program has to do.