Government and Political Roundup: Committee to announce how they will maintain state transportation systemWisconsin News
-- A state commission is expected to give final approval today to its recommendations for raising billions-of-dollars to maintain Wisconsin’s current transportation system.
A state commission is expected to give final approval today to its recommendations for raising billions-of-dollars to maintain Wisconsin’s current transportation system. Governor Scott Walker has already rejected some of the proposals from the Transportation Finance-and-Policy panel – including a five-cent hike in the gasoline tax. The panel also endorsed a jump in vehicle registration fees, and peg it to the numbers of miles people drive. Drivers would also pay more to renew their licenses, and trade-ins would no longer get a sales tax exemption. Those measures would bring in an extra 479-million-dollars over 10 years – and commission members say it’s needed just to maintain the roads, bridges, airports, railroads, bike paths, and mass transit that Wisconsin already has. The panel’s report says all the increases would add up to a 120-dollar annual hike in transportation fees for the average Wisconsin motorist. The Republican Walker says improving the infra-structure is one of his main priorities – but he has already come out against a higher gas tax and tolls. He’ll outline his proposals in the new state budget he’ll submit to lawmakers in about a month.
Governor Scott Walker admits that his proposed state income tax cut won’t be nearly enough to off-set the higher Social Security taxes that workers started paying in January. But he said it would help if the state could make up at least some of the increase. The Tax Policy Center said families making 40-to-50-thousand dollars a year would pay an extra 579-dollars this year, after a two-year stimulus tax cut for Social Security expired last month. Walker says the proposed state income tax cut would save 100-dollars a year for what he called a “typical state family,” which he did not define. Walker and Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said yesterday they wanted to return a 342-million-dollar surplus that’s expected in the current state budget which expires in June. Vos said he hopes even more could be added to that pot. And he promised that there would be plenty left over to give schools more money and take care of Medicaid recipients in the next budget which starts in July. Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca says his party supports tax cuts that benefit the middle class. But Democrats said they’re curious to see how Walker will structure his plan – and what other effects there might be on everyday residents. Those questions are expected to be answered in about a month, when Walker submits his next budget proposal to the Legislature.
State lawmakers plan to hear 12 hours of public testimony in Madison today on the Republican bill which tries to make it easier to open a new mine in northern Wisconsin. A joint Senate and Assembly hearing is planned on a package that seeks to lure Gogebic Taconite back, after it scrapped plans to build an iron ore mine last spring. As expected, Senate Democrat Tim Cullen of Janesville introduced an alternative mining bill yesterday. And although Democrats do not have the votes to pass anything, Senate G-O-P President Mike Ellis said elements of Cullen’s proposal should be considered for the final mining package. Cullen’s alternative includes provisions adopted by a committee he chaired on the subject last fall. It would give the D-N-R more time to act on mining applications, so the state and federal governments could work together in their reviews. The G-O-P package calls for a 480-day time limit. Cullen’s bill would not relax environmental protections, which the Republican plan does. But the Wisconsin Manufacturers-and-Commerce – the state’s largest business group – takes issue with the claim that an open pit mine would harm the environment. It said the state’s current water quality standards would remain intact. The W-M-C also disputed a study of public data by a Lawrence University geologist, which found that acid drainage from waste rock is a serious concern. A lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite said the study’s assumptions were “grossly off.”