Evers expects transpo task force to recommend gas tax increase

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

Gov. Tony Evers says he expects his Transportation Stakeholder Task Force to recommend an increase to the gas tax.

Evers said Tuesday “there seems to be some consensus” among the 34-member task force, which has met twice since being commissioned Jan. 30.

“From what I hear, at least part of it is a gas tax increase,” he said.

The guv didn’t offer specifics on how large of a gas tax hike he expects the task force to recommend and noted that he wants to see the body’s final recommendations before making a decision on what to include in his budget, which will be released Feb. 28.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, didn’t comment on a possible gas tax increase, but said the committee’s ideas seem to be ones that the Department of Transportation had previously floated.

“It’s kinda the same argument over and over and over,” he told reporters ahead of Tuesday afternoon’s floor session, adding that the guv has yet to reach out to him to discuss ideas for transportation funding.

Vos backs tolling as a revenue upper for transportation, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald at a panel discussion at the Wisconsin Counties Association Legislative Exchange last week said he’s “become a big believer” in the option as a solution to the state’s transportation challenges.

But at the time, the Juneau Republican warned he would not move forward on the option unless he had support from Evers, who didn’t address tolling in his comments to reporters today.

Also speaking at the panel, Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, and Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, indicated that “everything should be on the table” when it comes to solving the transportation issue.

Evers also said that he was “hopeful” that he could find common ground and compromise with Vos on a middle-class tax cut.

But the guv warned that he may veto the proposal if it comes across his desk in its current form and said he planned “to see what options are out there.”

Asked if that included vetoing legislation which would fulfill his campaign promise to cut taxes on the middle class by 10 percent, Evers responded that he wanted to see a final draft of the bill, but said he “can’t understand how we could possibly use up all of the surplus for this.”

The Assembly passed the bill 61-33 along party lines late Tuesday afternoon.

AB 4, the GOP version of the tax cut, would use the projected $691.5 million gross balance in the general fund at the end of the current fiscal year to cover the costs of their tax cut over the 2019-21 budget.

Under the GOP plan, the state would see reduced revenues of $152.1 million in the first year of the upcoming budget as withholding changes were changed to reflect the cut. It would then be a reduction of $343.5 million in the second year of the budget. The plan would result in a tax cut for nearly 2 million filers with an average reduction of $170 for those seeing a reduction.

Evers and Dems, though, have objected to using one-time money to cover the cost of an ongoing obligation. They unveiled a proposal last week which would cap a tax credit for manufacturers to help cover the price tag of their plan, which Republicans have called a non-starter.

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