How a Gas Tax Increase Would Hurt Wisconsin Tourism

MacIver News Service | August 15, 2016

[Madison, Wis…] A gas tax increase could have serious implications for Wisconsin’s $19.3 billion tourism industry, according to a group of small business owners whose livelihoods depend on tourists visiting Wisconsin.

The MacIver Institute recently sat down with the four business owners, all of whom agreed that their businesses would suffer from even a five cent increase, like the one proposed in 2014 by the state Department of Transportation.

“We burn 35,000 gallons of fuel per season. So, at a nickel, that adds up quite quickly,” said Bret Cook, co-owner of Kinn’s Sport Fishing in Algoma.

“Fuel is one of our major costs. The price of energy drives everything. The higher it is, the less we do,” said Arnie Arredondo, owner of Southport Charter Service in Kenosha.

But the ripple effect of a gas tax hike would extend far beyond just their businesses, the group told us. With higher gas prices in Wisconsin, many tourists who travel five or more hours to reach their destinations in Wisconsin will likely alter their vacation plans.

Also, despite the insistence by gas tax proponents that Wisconsin’s highways are in dire need of more money for repair, the group said their customers often compliment them on the quality of Wisconsin’s roadways.

“We get a lot of compliments from customers about how clean Wisconsin is and how well-maintained the roads are,” said Dan Welsch, owner of Dumper Dan’s Charter Fishing Fleet in Sheboygan.

“Our motto in Wisconsin since Governor Walker’s been elected has been ‘we’re open for business,’ and it totally flies in the face of we’re open for business if you’re going to put a tax on a commodity that all businesses depend on,” said Tom Kleiman, Jr., owner of Accurate Marine and Storage in Kewaunee.

“The gas tax is one of the harshest ways you can penalize a blue collar family in my opinion,” Kleiman said.