Joint Finance Co-Chair Considers Toll Roads Best Fix for Transportation Funding Shortfall

Joint Finance Committee Co-Chairman John Nygren (R-Marinette) told Newswatch 12 last week he sees three potential options to fix a billion-dollar shortfall: raising registration fees, raising the gas tax, or using toll roads.

Nygren says lawmakers have pushed off this issue for the last two budgets, so now’s the time to take action.

“I do think tolling, which is a true user fee–you can use other roads if you choose not to use the interstate system–could be an option,” Nygren said.

Toll roads wouldn’t be an immediate fix, because Wisconsin would need federal approval. Nygren thinks the system would be easy enough to install.

“It’s the direction we’re going and, as I said, it’s a true user fee,” Nygren said. “I know it’s not the old world of tolling with all the booths. You can do it nowadays with a transponder in your car.”

Gov. Scott Walker told reporters last week he’s not pushing for toll roads, telling the Associated Press that if he agreed to tolls, he would want the gas tax to drop. Meanwhile, Joint Finance Co-Chair Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) said Republicans aren’t unified in backing the toll idea.

“I don’t know that I ever met anybody who agrees with me on every single issue, right?” Nygren said. “I don’t care if they’re a constituent or they’re another elected official. We’re elected to bring different perspectives to the table.”

The Joint Finance Committee plans to meet Thursday, when Nygren hopes to focus more on transportation funding.