DOT Pushes Gas Tax Propaganda On Twitter, Conservatives Say

The Dept. of Transportation's advocacy for an inflation-indexed gas tax hike on Twitter has conservatives concerned the agency has been using taxpayer money to push political propaganda. #wibudget #wiright #wipolitics Click To Tweet

MacIver News Service | June 6, 2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. — Is the Wisconsin Department of Transportation getting into the “propaganda” business? 

Some conservatives think so. 

They point to a DOT tweet sent Wednesday that seems to leap over the line dividing political agency advocacy.  

“Anyone who drives Wisconsin roads knows: bridge and road conditions are getting worse,” the tweet states. 

The message then proceeds to call for a gas tax hike, with additional automatic annual increases. 

“A gas tax increase with indexing provides sustainable funding so we can meet the state’s needs,” the tweet insists.

Another DOT tweet writes, “We need to establish a forward-looking sustainable funding source to fix our deteriorating highways. A gas tax is the fairest, most affordable solution.”  

Sure, the DOT is simply advocating for the budget measures pitched and supported by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and his Transportation secretary-designee, Craig Thompson. They want an 8-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, and they want to tie the state’s gas tax to the rate of inflation through indexing — basically, taxation without representation. 

But state agencies — supposedly nonpartisan — are usually not this aggressive in their advocacy for an administration’s agenda. 

A review of the Twitter accounts of other state agencies finds mostly promotional tweets, information about department programs and initiatives. DOT’s tweets are mainly the same. That’s why the push for the gas tax really stood out to conservative activists like Eric Bott. 

“I’m not sure we want our government civil servants engaging in propaganda like this,” Bott, Wisconsin director of Americans for Prosperity, wrote in a response to the DOT tweet. 

“It’s concerning to see a state government turning into the advocacy state. It raises questions if they are going to start engaging in propaganda,” Bott told MacIver News Service on Thursday.

The flurry of DOT tweets popped up as Republican legislative leaders said they wouldn’t support a tax hike. Instead, the GOP came to terms on a $483 million transportation funding package fueled by fee increases and $90 million in a one-time General Transportation Aid transfer. The plan also calls for about $326 million in bonding, the lowest level of borrowing in nearly 20 years, according to Joint Finance Committee John Nygren (R-Marinette). 

A Marquette Law School Poll found a majority of Wisconsin residents do not support an increase to the gas tax, now at nearly 33 cents a gallon.


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Nygren told MacIver News Service on Friday’s Jay Weber Show (on NewsTalk 1130 WISN) that he is surprised by the agency rhetoric.

“I’ve been doing this job 12 years and I’ve never seen the level of advocacy and, quite honestly, just straight forward political gamesmanship within the administration,” he said.