Saturday, April 01, 2017
Breaking April 1st: State Republicans Seek Limits On Local Roads
Wisconsin cities would no longer be able to ask voters to raise their taxes permanently for street maintenance and would lose some state funding if they exceed their state-imposed limits on raising property taxes through referendums under a package of bills Republican lawmakers are releasing this week.
Legislators proposing the bills say the moves are designed to lower property taxes, return paved roads to natural maintenance-free trails and make urban and rural environments appear more similar.
Sen. Duey Stroebel: “I believe there is more harm being done to our tax climate via road repair referendums than anyone realizes. If everything passed, next year property taxes in Wisconsin would be $63 million higher just from maintenance (referendums) this election and voters would have approved a total of over $2 billion in road debt in the past thirteen months.”
1. Stroebel would eliminate what are known as recurring referendums — ballot questions that raise property taxes permanently.
2. Cap any local road referendum for operating costs at five years.
3. Reduce state aid for communities that enact wheel taxes or exceed their revenue limits through a referendum. The reduction in aid would be equal to 20 percent of the amount the community raises property taxes above their revenue limits.
4. That state aid would then be redistributed to the rest of the state’s communities through the state funding formula. Stroebel said, “If you as a local community think you have a need and an ability to spend more on roads, then we need to re-prioritize to other communities who haven’t done that.”
5. When city officials could ask voters to approve spending on street resurfacing and curb repair would be limited to spring and fall general elections.
6. City officials also would be required to vote on seeking a referendum at their regular meetings, but councils could only vote on referendums that issue debt, not raise existing wheel taxes, at their annual meetings.
7. A bill would provide 50 percent matching state funds for cities that set aside money they receive under their revenue limits in a fund for transportation maintenance and construction projects. If the city seeks to enact or increase their wheel tax within 10 years of using the matching funds from the state, the money is reimbursed to the state through a reduction in the municipal state aid.
Local Assembly Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, a political ally of Stroebel's, said she supports his proposal but thinks rural areas still hold an unfair advantage over urban centers. Her proposal would force all incorporated cities in the state to turn a percentage of their downtown streets back to dirt and gravel to match the percentage of roads being returned to dirt and gravel in rural areas of the state. That way she believes, city dwellers could experience the same tax savings rural areas enjoy.
Posted by Lou Kaye at 1:03 PM