Highway Overspending Targeted

Local roads could see funding jump under proposal
By Larry Sandler of the Journal Sentinel

State funding for local roads would nearly double under a state constitutional amendment being pushed by an environmental group.

If lawmakers and voters agree with the idea from 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, the amendment would send half of all state gas tax and vehicle fee revenue to local governments for building and maintaining local roads.

Based on current funding levels, that would boost local road aid by $901 million over two years – from $928 million in the 2011-’13 state budget to almost $1.83 billion – while chopping the same amount from highways and other transportation programs.

At the same time, a blue-ribbon study panel is considering a wide variety of possible changes in how to pay for transportation, from standard options such as raising the gas tax or imposing tolls to more exotic concepts such as charging drivers by how many miles they drive or boosting registration fees for hybrids and electric vehicles.

The Transportation Finance & Policy Commission, an advisory body created by the Legislature, is trying to find a way to pay for growing transportation needs at a time when state residents are driving less and turning to more fuel-efficient vehicles, cutting into the gas tax revenue that now pays much of the cost of roads and buses.

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