Wisconsin leaders are looking at new ways to pull in money for road projects, which could translate to a price hike at the pump.
The Transportation Policy and Finance Commission, created in the 2011 state budget, is considering whether there will be enough money to build roads in the future.
"Moving forward, the money we get in this state is from the gas tax and registration fees, and they don't adjust with inflation the way sales and income tax does so they remain stagnant," said Craig Thompson, executive director of the Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin and a member of the 10-member commission.
The commission estimates that in 10 years the state could be $6 billion short on money for major projects, so it's considering where new money could come from, including raising the gas tax for the first time in six years.
"It's probably the best way to make sure we're getting money from everyone who is driving in Wisconsin from out of state, and it has a low administrative cost," Thompson said.
"It's a hot-button issue for people, and nobody wants to pay more for anything; no one wants to pay higher taxes or fees," said Mark Gottleib, secretary of the Department of Transportation.
Gottlieb said the problem lies not only in a flat gas tax but vehicles being more fuel-efficient and drivers simply hitting the road less. The commission is also looking at raising registration fees or creating a mileage fee, which would work by drivers paying a cent and a half per mile driven on state roads in order to find revenue elsewhere. While nothing is final, it's clear the commission and DOT secretary think more money has to come from somewhere.
"Certainly, if we're going to keep the same purchasing power in the transportation fund as vehicles become more efficient and they pay less tax per mile driven, if we're going to continue to make the investments we need to make, something is going to have to fill that gap," Gottlieb said.
The commission's report is due to the governor and the legislature in January with the goal of having enough time for it to be considered for the next state budget.
As it stands, the DOT submitted budget recommendations to the governor that included no fee or tax increases at Gov. Scott Walker's request, but that doesn't mean the governor couldn't opt for a different decision after seeing the commission report in the new year.