Senate Republicans Float $10 Registration Fee Increase to Fund Transportation Budget

Senate Republicans are floating a $10 increase on registration fees to help pay for the state’s roads as signs suggest GOP members in both houses of the Legislature are still far from agreement on a final transportation budget.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, informed reporters Wednesday of the potential fee increase, which would bump annual vehicle registration fees to $85. The news comes as the state’s budget writing committee is poised to vote on a transportation budget at its meeting Thursday.

Republicans in the Senate and Assembly have not yet agreed on a transportation funding plan, and discussions among GOP lawmakers are continuing on the total transportation revenue increase and which projects should be funded.

Republicans in both chambers have ruled out the gas tax increase Democratic Gov. Tony Evers proposed, and are now looking at fee increases. Fitzgerald said tolling is still on the table, and added lawmakers are considering a mix of new revenue, cash and bonding to pay for the transportation budget.

Fitzgerald disclosed the potential registration fee increase after a group of Senate Republicans earlier Wednesday introduced a $134 million transportation funding proposal that would direct funds toward local roads, but it was clear the plan lacked support from some Republicans in the Senate. Leaders of both chambers said they are interested in pursuing the plan separately from the transportation budget up for a vote Thursday.

The plan introduced by six Senate GOP members of the Joint Finance Committee, among others, would use one-time surplus funds to direct about $72 million to counties and $62 million to towns. Each county would get $1 million to use for maintenance and construction projects to improve local road conditions. The proposal lacks support from the entire Senate caucus, and it’s unclear whether GOP members in the state Assembly or finance committee would endorse the plan.

A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Republicans in his caucus continue to support a long-term transportation funding solution, and that Vos is interested in pursuing the proposal outside of the larger transportation budget.