New Bill Would Require Voter OK on Wheel Taxes

A newly introduced state bill would require local governments to poll voters before passing a so-called wheel tax, a measure more cities have explored in recent years to meet transportation costs.

A bill authored by Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, requires municipalities to put plans for a wheel tax up for a binding voter referendum instead of simply passing such measures through city council or county boards. The tax is a charge tacked on to the $75 yearly car registration. Schraa is looking for sponsors for the measure and hopes the Legislature will consider the bill before budget deliberations, he said.

“We’re not saying that you can’t have a wheel tax,” Schraa said. “To me, if I was on a city council, I’d want as much public input as possible.”

More communities have turned to a wheel tax to fund transportation projects in recent years to offset shrinking state funding. USA TODAY NETWork-Wisconsin reported that 13 of the 16 cities and counties in the state that levy a wheel tax passed them in the last two years. Nearly all of the communities that employ wheel taxes passed the rule without a referendum.

Milwaukee County voters in April rejected a wheel tax totaling $60. Voters in Wausau scrubbed a $20 wheel tax in a referendum by a 14-percentage-point margin in November.