MADISON, Wis. - One night after loud protests over jail funding in the county budget made debating a separate measure to introduce a $28 vehicle registration fee impossible, the Dane County Board of Supervisors decided, by a wide margin, to approve the measure.
The fee, colloquially known as a wheel tax, is collected by the state on all vehicles kept in the county. It is paid every time a vehicle is registered or its registration is renewed.
All money collected from the wheel tax is required by state law to go toward roads.
The vote passed the board 27 to 6.
Wheel taxes have been adopted by many governments in Wisconsin, including many in south-central Wisconsin.
Locally, the municipalities of Beloit, Fort Atkinson, Iron Ridge, Janesville, Lodi, Milton, Platteville, Portage and Prairie du Sac, Iowa County and the Town of Arena have all adopted wheel taxes, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
Milton's wheel tax of $30 ties with Milwaukee County for the highest fee in the state.
Those cities, towns and counties turned to wheel taxes to make up for a lack of transportation funds from the state, county board Chairwoman Sharon Corrigan said.
"For the six-year period, from 2011 to 2017, our spending went up 250 percent on roads and the state support went up (only) 33 percent," Corrigan said.
Dane County drivers expressed mixed reaction toward the fee.
"($28) is pretty high," a driver named Peggy, who did not want to give her last name, said. "I think our taxes are already high enough."
"It's an extra fee that people probably aren't going to be too happy about, but if it shows some benefit to drivers, it's probably a good thing," Ashley Billig said.
"It's inconvenient, but it's better than some alternatives," Henry Wellington said. "There are roads that need to be fixed up."
Some supervisors raised concerns over the tax being regressive.
"I don't think you should pay the same if you have an old pickup truck or a brand-new Lexus," District 12 Supervisor Paul Rusk, who ultimately voted for the fee, said.
Corrigan said a wheel tax was the only option to make up for the state shortfall.
"We don't like to pay taxes, we don't like to pay fees, but there are basic services that we need," Corrigan said. "I wish we had a less regressive way to pay for (roads). It's not what I would choose, but it's the only option available to us under state law."
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 414,126 vehicles in Dane County are eligible for the wheel tax.
The fee is set to go into effect Oct. 1, 2018.
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