Senators: No Truck Tax, No Tax Hikes For Troubled DOT

MacIver News Service | June 30, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

[Madison, Wis…] – Five Wisconsin state senators on Friday announced they will not support an Assembly proposal to place a new fee on heavy trucks – or tax hikes of any kind – to fund the troubled state Department of Transportation.

Sens. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater), Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon), Frank Lasee (R-De Pere), Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), and Duey Stroebel (Saukville), released a statement expressing their opposition.

“As the budget debate lingers, it remains clear that some in the legislature are seeking to increase WisDOT taxes in any way possible,” the senators said.

“The ‘tax of the week’ is a new tax on trucking. Instead of getting creative to find new ways to tax Wisconsinites, we should be discussing the reforms needed to clean up an agency with a record of over-designing, over-building, and over-paying for our roads,” the press release states.

Adding a new tax would only send Wisconsin’s tax rankings – still relatively high – in the wrong direction, the senators contend.

“Throughout the budget process, we have been discussing the elimination of taxes like the state forestry mill tax and the personal property tax on Main Street,” the statement continues. “Now is not the time to increase taxes on our citizens.”

That has been the adamant position of Gov. Scott Walker. But earlier this week, following the governor’s meeting with Republican leadership, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the Assembly backs the proposal and is aligned with Walker on the budget. Vos said the new fee to help pay for Wisconsin’s road projects could be a key piece in a budget deal.

Neither Walker nor Vos returned MacIver News Service’s requests for comment.

Assembly members have been mostly silent on the idea, raised earlier this month by Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R-Clinton). Proponents argue heavy truck operators should have to pay more to cover the wear and tear they create.

Critics say the fee singles out one category of vehicles to fix the state’s disputed $1 billion transportation budget shortfall.

The Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association joined a coalition of 16 trade groups and businesses – from Walmart to Schneider National – in sending a memo Thursday afternoon to Walker and lawmakers expressing their opposition to the idea.

“We strongly oppose the current proposal being considered to assess a Ton Per Mile (TPM) tax on heavy trucks,” the letter states.

The coalition asserts Wisconsin’s trucking industry paid 38 percent of all taxes and fees owed by Wisconsin motorists in 2016, and it pays one of the highest trucking registration fees in the nation.

“In addition to adding a new taxing scheme that can be increased by future legislatures, the current proposal embarks on what could be a red-tape nightmare for those doing business in Wisconsin when trying to accurately calculate a Ton Per Mile tax,” the memo states.

“Currently there is no TPM tax collection mechanism for intrastate carriers and an extra layer of government reporting would be placed on Wisconsin trucking companies, particularly small businesses.”

The bigger problem, according to the senators, is rewarding an agency that has wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

“The recent audit of WisDOT shows there are many reasons the agency has been inefficient and does not deserve new revenues. We should be looking for savings in government,” the senators said in the statement.