Long time readers know that I have been a proponent of raising Wisconsin’s gas tax for some time. Particularly after watching the state’s infrastructure suffer while the governor funded the Department of Transportation with debt.
In the articles that I linked in yesterday’s article about Governor Tony Evers’ People’s Budget…there was much talk about his proposal to raise the gas tax by eight cents a gallon. A lot of people are calling him out for raising taxes…something they claim he said he wouldn’t do on the campaign trail…but when it came to transportation funding he always said everything was on the table including tolls and gas taxes. Thankfully he selected gas taxes.
Now, don’t get the idea that I am made of money and want to pay higher taxes. Nope…that’s not me. But I also realize that at some point our roads and highways will be come unusable as we continue to defer maintenance…and future repairs always seem to cost more than contemporary repairs.
And raising gas taxes makes the most sense…it is essentially a user fee…because gas taxes are based on fuel usage…which is based on miles traveled…which directly affects wear and tear on our road systems.
The plus side to raising the gas tax is that it should be a bipartisan issue. Many Republicans wanted to raise it during Republican Governor Walker’s tenure in Madison…but it never came up because he was opposed to it.
Now the flip side to the coin…Governor Evers included another item that many Republican’s have supported in the past…the minimum markup law on gasoline. Currently a gasoline retailer must charge at least 9.18% more than their wholesale price when selling to the public. This was another item that had support in the legislature but was out of favor with the previous governor.
This depression area law prevents big companies from undercutting small business and then gouging the public when the locals are all put out of business. This was one of John D Rockefeller’s tactics before they split up Standard Oil.
I am not so comfortable with this…there are still Rockefeller types out there…Walmart and Amazon come to mind. I would oppose an abolition of the minimum markup but I could get behind changing the rate somewhat lower.
The theory is removing the minimum markup will produce lower gasoline prices at the pump and therefore soften the blow on the price increase from taxes (aside: we are style are relatively low historic prices at the moment and can certainly absorb the eight cents).
Now of course the GOP is all up in arms about this…despite supporting both positions at one time or other in the past eight or more years. And Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has complained that this is a bit of a shell game here. Well in a way, it is. But I don’t see it as different than the former governor’s willingness to raise gas taxes if the legislature lowered others in an equivalent fashion. Now that was a shell game…because it was unlikely that those paying higher gas taxes would match exactly those getting other tax breaks. Particularly given the wants of tax reductions supported by the GOP. At least here…the beneficiaries of the reduced mark up law would be identical to the tax payers paying higher gas taxes.
So let’s get this done one way or another…and reduce continued borrowing for transportation….something that the fiscally conservatives in Madison should be able to get behind!
And Governor Evers’ transportation portion of the budget:
Borrowing for roads would be the lowest level in 20 years, while $320 million in new money would go toward highway repair and expansion.