Bill Would Push More Road-Repair Taxes on Local Governments

May 14, 2015

Road builders, who have contributed more than $403,000 to current legislators over the past four years, are backing a legislative proposal that would allow counties and municipalities to create a new sales tax to pay for local street maintenance and repairs, a plan one critic calls buck-passing.

The measure, Assembly Bill 210, would allow counties and municipalities to enact up to a half-percent sales tax through a referendum to local voters. The new tax, which would be in addition to the existing 5 percent state sales on personal property, goods and services, would be effective for up to four years. The proposal is also supported by the Wisconsin Counties Association.

But, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a Madison environmental group, said the legislation would end up allowing some people to be taxed four times to pay for local road maintenance. The group says state residents already pay for road maintenance through state gas taxes, annual vehicle registration fees, and property taxes. The decreasing funds for local road repairs have arisen because legislators refuse to either increase state taxes or fees for new, major highway projects or cut the number of major projects paid for by state gas taxes and registration fees.

Road builders support this legislative proposal to pay for local roads because they depend on state contracts for major highway projects paid for by state taxes and fees.

The legislative proposal was sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst and Rep. Dean Knudson of Hudson. Between January 2011 and Oct. 20, 2014, Tiffany was one of the largest beneficiaries of road builder contributions in the legislature at $22,550.

Tiffany’s top road-builder contributors were Kent and Marsha Pitlik, of Eagle River, owners of Pitlik & Wick, $2,000; Matthew and Joretta Shinners, of Antigo, owners of Antigo Construction, $1,750; and John Taylor, of Rhinelander, a manager at James Peterson & Sons, and his wife, Judith, $1,500.

Hudson received $700 from road builders between January 2011 and Oct. 20, 2014, including $500 from Michael Soley, Jr., of Sussex, president of Miller-Bradford, Risberg, and $200 from William Atterhold, of New Richmond, a Mathy Construction vice president.

Overall, $393,000 of the $403,000 in total road-builder campaign contributions to current legislators went to Republicans, who control the Assembly by a 63-36 margin and the Senate by a 19-14 margin.