Rep. Amy Loudenbeck says she’s looking at a slew of options for the heavy trucking fee she’s proposed to pump new money into transportation, including the possibility it could come with a sunset.
Speaker Robin Vos, meanwhile, continued to talk up the proposal as a possible bridge to a deal on transportation despite conservative opposition. The Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, a host of other groups, and state Sen. Steve Nass Wednesday joined WMC in opposing the idea.
Gov. Scott Walker, though, remained silent on the idea even as insiders said it’s become clear the concept has gathered steam because he’s at least open to the proposal. His office did not return multiple calls today seeking comment.
Loudenbeck, R-Clinton and a member of the Joint Finance Committee, said she has asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau for a new memo on the proposal. She hopes to get better data on how much it could raise for the transportation fund in the upcoming biennium. A memo the budget shop put together in May pegged it at $138 million, though Loudenbeck stressed it was just a starting point.
She also pushed back against some of the criticism, saying opponents seem to want to shield various entities from contributing to a long-term solution.
“If everybody is not going to pay, then who is? Because the only answer to me is the next generation, and that’s not something I’m supportive of,” Loudenbeck said.
Vos refused to say whether Walker supports Loudenbeck’s plan, but said his caucus backs it and he’s “optimistic the Assembly is aligned with Gov. Walker.”
He added the heavy truck fee could be used as a shorter term solution, as the state potentially seeks approval from the feds allowing Wisconsin to begin issuing tolls.
Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, said he could accept the heavy trucking fee — if his other conservative priorities in the budget are met. But he said he wouldn’t support carve outs to shield some industries from the fee.
“That is a user fee in my mind,” Gannon said. “They really cause more wear on the roads, so I can swallow that one. As long as it’s fair and equitable to all doing that damage. We can’t pick winners and losers again.”
GOP Rep. John Spiros, though, said he has concerns about the proposal, particularly since trucking companies in Wisconsin already pay fees and taxes that exceed other states.
Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, promised to vigorously oppose it, decrying it as a $250 million tax increase.
Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin State Director Eric Bott said small trucking businesses would be hurt under the proposal, although its effects would also be felt across the state.
And Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce joined 16 other groups in slamming the proposal, writing in a letter it would “raise the cost to do business” in the state.