- Associated Press - Saturday, May 6, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Assembly Republicans’ plan to pay for Wisconsin roads by applying the sales tax to gas has run into a roadblock in Gov. Scott Walker.

The GOP governor and Assembly Republicans have been grappling over how to fill a projected $1 billion shortfall in the state’s transportation fund. Walker’s state budget calls for delaying projects and borrowing $500 million; he also has said he would support pulling more money out of the state’s general purpose fund for roads. He has adamantly opposed raising the gas tax or vehicle registration fees.

Assembly Republicans, led by Speaker Robin Vos, say Walker’s plan is hardly a long-term solution, creating an intraparty squabble with the governor. Rep. Dale Kooyenga, a Brookfield Republican, unveiled a sweeping plan on Thursday that would cut gas taxes by 4.8 cents per gallon, reduce the minimum markup - a law that prohibits the sale of gas below what it costs a retailer to purchase - from 9.18 percent to 3 percent and impose state and county sales taxes on gas for the first time. The plan is expected to generate $660 million in new revenue, which would go toward reducing borrowing by about $300 million. The plan puts off any decisions about which road projects to prioritize, however.

Walker told The Associated Press in a telephone interview he can’t support the plan. He pointed to calculations by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau that show the net effect would be a $433 million tax increase over two years on gas if the 64 counties with a sales tax all impose it on gas.

“To me, that is the most troubling part of the plan,” Walker said. “I think people are taxed enough. I oppose a gas tax increase, no matter what you want to call it.”

The Republicans’ plan also doesn’t lay out funding for any new road projects, which Walker said doesn’t make sense.

Kooyenga’s plan has numerous other components, including eliminating a host of income tax credits - including the marriage credit - to move toward a 3.95 percent flat tax for all taxpayers by 2028; repealing the minimum wage on public projects; eliminating nearly 200 Department of Transportation engineers; and creating a system for approving toll roads, which would need federal approval.

Walker said he didn’t know whether he supported those elements, saying his Department of Revenue and budget officials are still reviewing them.

Kooyenga didn’t immediately respond to messages. Neither did Vos spokeswoman Kit Beyer. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, also didn’t immediately return a message. Fitzgerald has urged Republicans to follow Walker’s lead and supports pulling more money out of the general fund for roads.

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca didn’t immediately return a message. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling called the squabble between Walker and Assembly Republicans “embarrassing.”

“Once again,” Shilling said in an email, “the right hand and the far right hand don’t seem to be in sync with each other.”

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Associated Press writer Cara Lombardo contributed to this report.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1. Follow Cara Lombardo at https://twitter.com/cararlombardo.


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