Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald believes five of his GOP members coming out against a proposal to raise fees on heavy trucks means it’s “probably dead” in the Senate, a spokeswoman said today.

But Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, the GOP Joint Finance Committee member who proposed the idea, said she appreciated the “courtesy” of Gov. Scott Walker and other legislative colleagues for reserving judgment on the proposal until a more detailed analysis could be done.

Still, Walker continued to be silent on the proposal, which legislative leaders said they discussed with him during a meeting Wednesday. His office did not return calls for a second straight day seeking comment on the proposal.

The five GOP senators today declared: “Now is not the time to increase taxes on our citizens,” as they expressed their opposition to the heavy truck fee.

With the 2015-17 biennium finishing its final day and no agreement on a new two-year budget in site, the senators’ strong statement signaled a continuing impasse over transportation. While the senators are opposed to pumping new money into transportation, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, insisted this week his caucus won’t accept $850 million more in bonding Senate Republicans are seeking unless there is a new revenue stream.

With a 20-13 majority in the Senate, Fitzgerald spokeswoman Myranda Tanck said it would be difficult to get the proposal through the chamber with the five members opposed.

“He’s not sure what kind of changes he could make to it to get people on board,” she said.

The five are Dave Craig, of West Bend; Steve Nass, of Whitewater; Chris Kapenga, of Delafield; Frank Lasee, of De Pere; and Duey Stroebel, of Saukville. They argued the recent DOT audit shows the agency does not “deserve new revenues” and instead the state should be looking for savings.

Their opposition follows calls from Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce to oppose the proposal.

“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 five said in a joint statement.

Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, has been waiting for an updated analysis of her proposal from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, but said this afternoon the revised numbers were not yet in.

LFB did a memo in mid-March based on imposing a 2.85-cent per mile fee on heavy trucks. But the budget shop noted it was difficult to project the revenue such a proposal could generate because the state currently does not collect information on the number of miles heavy trucks drive in Wisconsin annually. Instead, its projection was based on information from an intra-regional registration program. The memo also noted it was unclear what the administrative costs could be.

Loudenbeck is hoping the new memo will have more solid projections to advance the proposal, which she called a work in progress. It does not include any carve-outs for various industries, and the fee would apply to trucks of 59,000 pounds or more. She also has said the fee could be temporary or include a sunset.

Loudenbeck said she respects the opinion of the five Senate Republicans who announced today they oppose her idea. Still, she questioned how Senate Republicans could be OK with $850 million more in bonding revenue for transportation over the next two years, but not revenue from a fee.

Loudenbeck’s office released an email it received from the Lake States Lumber Association saying it could support the increased fee if Wisconsin allowed larger truck configurations that can currently operate in Michigan to travel on more state roads than now allowed.

“I’m open to anyone’s ideas and input because certainly we can make improvements,” she said. “But rejecting it out of hand might be premature, but I respect their opinion.”

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