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What to expect from the gas tax hike

Posted at 6:36 AM, Apr 11, 2019

MADISON — This week, lawmakers are hearing testimony on Gov. Tony Evers’ state budget in which he proposes raising the gas tax by 8 cents a gallon. Were it not for a change in state law years ago, Wisconsin drivers would already be paying that.

State lawmakers in 2005 voted to eliminate automatic, annual gas tax indexing. Prior to that, the gas tax would adjust every April 1, usually going up about a penny per gallon.

Wisconsin’s gas tax sits at 30.9 cents per gallon. We asked the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau to crunch some numbers. Had the indexing continued, our gas tax now would be 38.7 cents per gallon, the office reports.

The change saved drivers $1.7 billion over the years, but it also contributed to delays in major construction projects.

The Interstate-94 rebuild from southern Milwaukee County to the state line was supposed to be done in 2016. That project now resumed was left partially finished for years.

Construction on the core of the Zoo Interchange wrapped up last year, but the northern leg of the project needs $200 million more work. That, too, was supposed to be done already, but is now not scheduled for completion until after 2020.

The relationship between taxes and transportation spending will be a primary theme of what could be a long budget battle between the Republican Legislature and the Democratic governor.