Novel Concept on Wisconsin Ballot: Using Gas Tax Revenue Only for Transportation

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Posted by Will Upton on Thursday, October 16th, 2014, 5:00 AM PERMALINK

Voters could put an end to the legislative abuse of raiding gas tax monies for non-transportation projects.

This November, Wisconsin taxpayers could decide to guarantee gas tax revenue goes only towards transportation projects via Question 1: “Creation of a Transportation Fund”. This legislatively referred constitutional amendment would legally dedicate revenues generated by use of the state transportation system, namely the state gas tax, to be used only for funding Wisconsin’s transportation system. The measure reads: “Shall section 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin's transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?"

State governments often raid state transportation funds to pay for other projects having nothing to do with roads or other transportation needs. Question 1 would constitutionally mandate that state gas tax revenue go towards projects within the purview of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, ensuring that the revenue is not raided and the fund abused.

The ballot measure has received bipartisan support from Wisconsin’s Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and a bevy of legislators. In addition to the support of numerous elected officials, Question 1 is being backed by many Wisconsin businesses, local chambers of commerce, and industry associations. Vote Yes for Transportation – the organization primarily backing a Yes vote on Question 1 – notes: “A winning "yes" vote simply requires that your gas tax and registration fee dollars remain in the transportation fund to be used to pay for Wisconsin's roads, public transit systems, ports, airports, rail and bicycle and pedestrian facilities.” The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance noted in 2013 that, “The change in revenue mix [shift to borrowing for transportation] coincided with the use of transportation fund revenues to help balance the general fund budget… In every year from 2002 to 2011, lawmakers transferred money from the transportation fund to the general fund – a 10 year total of more than $1.4 billion.”

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist noted, In a trick that is getting old and tired, politicians refuse to spend tax dollars raised through the gas tax on roads, then claim poverty, and promise  that 'if you only agree to another tax hike--this time the money will actually go for roads.' No surprise, it doesn't. Rinse. Repeat.He continued, This ballot measure ends this game in the state of Wisconsin. Forty-nine other states should follow suit.

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