Capitol Week-in-Review – January 5, 2017

Our Lobbying “To Do” List for the 2017-2018 Legislative Session

The 103rd Session of the Wisconsin State Legislature has begun. Starting next week, we will be meeting with State Senators and State Representatives to share with them our priorities for the 2017-2018 Legislative Session. Outlined below is a brief summary of our lobbying “to do” list.

  • Repeal of Wisconsin’s personal property tax;
  • Enactment of a sustainable, long-term transportation funding plan that allows the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and local governments to build, repair and maintain a safe, reliable transportation infrastructure network;
  • Regulatory relief for small, independent businesses with special emphasis on state government laws and regulations relating to: unemployment insurance; labor and employment; and state tax code administration and enforcement;
  • Streamline the process by which obsolete and\or unnecessary state government regulations are eliminated;
  • Bring more accountability, private sector economic expertise and additional small business input to the processes used by state government agencies to create new regulations;
  • Additional state funding for the expansion of broadband service throughout Wisconsin as well as changes in state laws and regulations that help facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure; and
  • Reduce employer health care costs in Wisconsin’s Worker’s Compensation system through an amendment to Wisconsin’s Worker’s
    Compensation law that establishes a schedule of the maximum fees a health care provider may charge an employer or insurer for health services provided to an injured worker who claims Worker’s Compensation benefits.

DOT Releases Tolling Feasibility Study and Policy Report

Tolling is one of several funding options being considered by state lawmakers to fund the construction, maintenance, and repair of Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure network.

Last Thursday, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) published the results of a study to evaluate the feasibility of tolling the Interstate highway system throughout Wisconsin as well as a policy report which identifies the legal and policy issues that state lawmakers would need to address should a decision be made to toll the Interstate highway system.

According to the feasibility study, if the State of Wisconsin were to toll the entire 875 mile Interstate system from 2020 through 2050, between $14 billion and $46 billion in net revenue could be collected depending upon the chosen toll rates. The $14 billion figure is based on a tolling rate of $0.04 per mile while the $46 billion figure is based on a tolling rate of $0.12 per mile. For comparison purposes, the tolling rate for two-axle cars on the Interstate Turnpike Systems in Indiana, Kansas, Ohio and West Virginia range from $0.03 to $0.07 per mile.

According to the policy report, tolling of the Interstate Highway System in Wisconsin is currently prohibited under federal law and as such the State of Wisconsin would need authorization from federal lawmakers. Beyond federal authorization, the report identifies several major legal and policy considerations including:

  • Governance Structure – the Wisconsin Constitution arguably restricts a tolling program to being governed directly by DOT. It may also be feasible to initiate a tolling program under the direction of a quasi-independent toll authority or board.
  • Revenue Use – generally, tolling programs are more likely to withstand legal challenges if the use of toll revenue is restricted to the roadways where the tolls are collected. The use of toll revenues more broadly, for projects that are only indirectly related, increases legal risks associated with revenue use.
  • Rate Setting – there are a wide variety of toll rate setting processes employed throughout the country. Two best practices that have merged are for enabling statutes to insulate the rate setting process as much as possible from political pressure, and to allow for maximum rate setting flexibility within the boundaries of appropriate delegation of legislative authority.
  • Toll Collection – increasingly, toll authorities are moving away from cash toll collection toward all-electronic toll collection. While electronic toll collection is more efficient and offers increased customer convenience, it also introduces concepts such as enforcement, privacy and  data retention that must be considered.

At this time, WIB has not taken a formal position on the tolling of Wisconsin’s Interstate System. If, or when, state lawmakers come forward with a tolling proposal, our advocacy will be guided by input from members.

Small Rise in Statewide Property Tax Levy in 2016

According to the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the statewide net property tax levy is projected to rise from $9.62 billion in 2015 to $9.78 billion in 2016 – an increase of 1.6%.

Final figures will be available later this year.