Dane County vehicle owners will pay an extra $28 next year to help pay for county road projects.
The wheel tax was approved in the 2018 county budget on Tuesday, Nov. 21, and will go into effect Oct. 1, 2018, adding $2.8 million to the county’s revenue for that year, and $11.5 million annually after that.
But some supervisors that voted for the new fee admitted their reluctance of further burdening residents’ wallets.
“I support this even though I am probably going to catch a lot of hell from my constituents,” said Sup. Dennis O’Loughlin.
O’Loughlin said what swayed him were the deteriorating roads in his district of DeForest and Windsor, and the demands of area businesses that want a good transportation system to haul their products.
He said the little more than $2 extra a month is a small fee compared to new shocks that motorists will need to put on their cars because of poor roads.
But a handful of supervisors — including Tim Kiefer, Danielle Williams and Dave Ripp — voted against the wheel tax, which was originally proposed by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
The board vote on Nov. 20 was disregarded because of protesters against the county jail consolidation plans, who stopped the meeting twice and prevented supervisors from discussing the vehicle registration fee.
Supervisors said they were glad to get the opportunity to speak out against the fee on Tuesday before the new vote.
Ripp said it puts some Dane County motorists at a disadvantage.
“This very regressive tax burden falls heaviest on rural residents,” Ripp said. “If you live in the country, you have to have a vehicle and do not have a bus available. This tax will raise almost $2.9 million to be used for highways. Problem is that almost none was used for our roads.”
Ripp, who is on the Public Works and Transportation Committee, also criticized the budget for not adding what he said is desperately needed --highway workers.
“We are so short staffed that parks workers and the people that should be fixing the trucks have to plow snow,” Ripp said.
State law requires the money be used for transportation.
Ripp said the new money reduced the tax levy going to highways to $4.3 million.
“With an additional over $8 million next year, we will see very creative accounting used to claim it is going to roads. We are doing more major road repair, but every penny of that is borrowed money,” Ripp said.
Some supervisors blamed the state lawmakers for not finding an adequate road funding solution, and “kicking the can down the road.”
“One of the reasons that we are put in this predicament is that state politicians refuse to invest in infrastructure and are not ready to stand up and help the one county that is carrying the whole state on its backs,” said Sup. Nick Zwiefel of Sun Prairie.
Kiefer said the $28 wheel tax should have gone to a referendum so Dane County residents could have weighed in on the proposed registration fee.
The $28 vehicle registration fee passed 27-6. The fee will be on top of the $75 state vehicle registration fee.