Government and Political Roundup: State officials debating about making motorists pay fees according to how many miles they driveWisconsin News
-- Wisconsin officials are thinking about making motorists pay fees according to how many miles they drive.
Wisconsin officials are thinking about making motorists pay fees according to how many miles they drive. Those fees would be in addition to the gas taxes and vehicle registration fees that drivers now pay. And it would help cover an expected shortfall of almost nine-billion dollars to maintain current transportation facilities and pay for new highway projects that have been committed. Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb chairs an advisory panel that’s looking at ways for Wisconsin to generate more revenue for things like new highways. Lawmakers created the panel after admitting that the current gas tax and vehicle fees will fall far short of meeting the state’s future transportation needs. The mileage-based fee would be the first in the nation – and even if the Transportation Finance-and-Policy Commission recommends it, the fee would still need to be approved by the governor and Legislature. Motorists would report their odometer readings to the state. Commissioners talked about putting G-P-S monitors on people’s vehicles to check their mileage – but there was little interest in that. Gottlieb said the mileage fee could kick in after a certain number of miles, so those who don’t drive very much wouldn’t get hit. And there could be a cap at the high end as well. Gottlieb said other states have had pilot projects, but none have adopted the mileage fee on a statewide basis. The commission is expected to make its final recommendations by December.
A federal elections Web site has corrected an error affecting military and overseas voters. The Federal Voting Assistance Program initially said that overseas voters had to get their ballots to their hometown clerks by November 16th – a week later than the correct deadline of November ninth. Wisconsin officials e-mailed the correct deadlines to their overseas voters. Reid Magney of the state Government Accountability Board said his office notified the federal government of its error yesterday – and he said state officials have consistently provided the correct information. In any case, Magney says it won’t be a big problem. About 65-hundred overseas Wisconsinites cast ballots in the last presidential election in 2008.
Yesterday was National Voter Registration Day, and both state-and-local officials used the occasion to get new voters to start thinking about signing up for November. In Madison, state Government Accountability Board director Kevin Kennedy predicted that over three-million Wisconsinites would cast ballots in the presidential contest. The numbers fell just short of three-million in 2008. In Neenah, City Clerk Patty Sturn issued a plea for interested voters to register as soon as possible. She told W-L-U-K T-V in Green Bay that her office wants to avoid a log-jam, which could occur if people wait until later in October to register. Sturn said voters could sign up at the polls on Election Day – but with a turnout of up to 80-percent expected, she said they’d probably have to wait in long lines. She said voters can register on-line, by mail, or in person at local clerk’s offices. Registrations by mail must be postmarked by October 17th – and those who wish to vote early with absentee ballots have until the Friday before the election to do so. First Lady Michelle Obama plans to talk about voter registration when she speaks at Lawrence University in Appleton on Friday.
Wisconsin officials were recently called on the carpet by the U-S Department of Housing-and-Urban Development, for not handling HUD’s economic development funds properly. The Wisconsin State Journal said the state’s administration and economic agencies were scolded by HUD for not following federal laws and the state’s own policies in issuing grants to businesses. HUD said the state failed to check the financial condition of two companies which got almost one-and-a-half million dollars in federal grants. The report also said 11 of 20 block grant loans given to businesses during Scott Walker’s governorship were forgiveable, in violation of state policies that allow such conditions only in extreme circumstances. Also, HUD said the state gave out 20-thousand-dollars per job to Kapco of Polk County – twice as much as its policies allow. And HUD questioned an eight-point-six million dollar withdrawal of federal block grant funds by a former controller in the state’s Economic Development Corporation to pay for various projects at the end of 2011. Administration spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the state was carefully reviewing its records. She said her department agrees with HUD’s conclusions for the most part, and is working on corrective actions.