- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin cities, towns and counties joined together Wednesday to encourage that everything - from a new personal property tax on vehicles to regional cooperatives that would share resources - should be considered to help pay for local roads’ needs.

A report commissioned by the Local Government Institute, a coalition of groups representing local governments, detailed how funding has decreased for roads over the past decade, and offered ideas on how to address the problem.

The report comes as the state Department of Transportation is calling for raising the gas tax and imposing a new registration fee on hybrid and electric vehicles as part of a $751 million package of tax and fee increases.

How to plug a projected $680 million roads funding shortfall is expected to be one of the biggest issues facing Gov. Scott Walker and the Legislature next session. Walker has said there will be major changes to that proposal, but he declined again Wednesday to say specifically what he will endorse or reject.

“There’s going to be changes, but I’m not going to rule major things out one way or the other,” Walker told reporters at the governor’s mansion.

The proposal has generated support from local governments, road builders, labor unions, local governments and others. The Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce is part of a coalition of 10 powerful business groups have come out against the plan, saying the tax increases would create a competitive disadvantage.

Deteriorating local roads are hurting the state’s economy and need to be addressed immediately, representatives of local governments argued Wednesday. Wisconsin ranked 48th nationally in local transportation spending in 2011, according to the report.

“We need to get moving,” said Jerry Deschane, executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities. “This is having a real impact on the state’s economy.”

The report, written by the nonprofit Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, “crystalizes the need for additional investment in our infrastructure,” said Mark O’Connell, executive director of the Wisconsin Counties Association.

O’Connell said the report was a complement to the Transportation Department’s budget request; the DOT was not involved with the report. All of the local government groups support the DOT’s budget proposal.

Funding ideas put forward in the report include:

- Creating regional transportation cooperatives that would raise new taxes and fees, which could be used to replace property taxes.

- Increasing and expanding the use of the local wheel tax, which is a registration fee on top of what the state charges.

- Imposing a personal property tax on a vehicle based on the vehicle’s value, age and local property tax rate.

- Allowing local governments to impose a gas tax on top of what the state charges.

- Creating a local sales tax for transportation.

- Increasing the state gas tax and imposing the state sales tax on gas.

- Raising vehicle registration fees.

- Taxing vehicles based on miles traveled.

- Creating toll roads, an idea that state politicians have been cool to and would take years to implement, given approvals that must come from the federal government.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP


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