It looks like the trial balloons are floating.
Here’s some of what Kooyenga has discussed:
- Applying the state’s 5% sales tax to gasoline, which could bring in up to 10 cents per gallon at current gasoline prices in the Milwaukee area. Unlike the current flat gas tax, the sales tax on gasoline could rise — or fall — as fuel prices go up and down.
- Eliminating 4 to 5 cents of the state’s 32.9-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, which would soften the overall tax increase on drivers.
- Making significant cuts to income taxes as part of a plan to move to a 4% flat tax over many years. “The long-term goal is to say we have a flat tax,” Vos acknowledged.
- Cutting roughly $300 million of the $500 million in borrowing for roads contained in Walker’s two-year budget bill. That means that over the next two years much of the new money being raised would go for debt reduction rather than for additional road projects — a potential sticking point for road builders who have been seeking more money for highways.
- Reducing the state-mandated markup on gasoline prices from its current level of 9.18% over the average wholesale price to something lower, such as 3%. That could help shield drivers from cost increases from the new taxes, but this provision will be controversial and likely draw opposition from some Wisconsin retailers such as convenience store chain Kwik Trip.
- Repealing the state’s minimum wage standards — known as the prevailing wage — for workers on public works projects such as road and bridge construction.
- Cutting about 180 Department of Transportation engineers who were added to the department’s payroll in 2013. Their work would likely be picked up by private-sector engineers.
- Applying to the federal government for permission to place tolls on certain state highways.
Obviously, we need to see the actual plan before spending too much time on it, but there are some good things in here. I like the repeal of prevailing wage, cutting staff, cutting income taxes, etc. I don’t like tax increases or toll roads. What bothers me the most is that except for the prevailing wage proposal, there isn’t anything in here that addresses the causes for high spending. Wisconsin still spends more on roads per mile than comparable states. Why? What about questionable requirements that drive up costs (roundabouts, art work, bike lanes, etc.)? What about wasteful spending on mass transit? Before legislators spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to squeeze more transportation taxes out of Wisconsinites, they need to address the causes of the bloated spending.
But we’ll see… Kooyenga is a smart guy and a solid conservative. I expect that the full plan with have more good than bad.