MADISON, Wis. — Democratic Gov. Tony Evers signaled Monday that he doesn't support Republican budget moves that would raise car registration fees to pay for road repairs, saying the plan exacts nothing from out-of-state drivers.
Evers' proposed state budget calls for an additional $624 million in transportation funding that would be generated in part by raising the state gas tax by 8 cents per gallon.
Republicans who control the Legislature's finance committee erased Evers' plan from the budget earlier this month.
They inserted their own language calling for spending an additional $483.7 million, generated by raising title fees from $95 to $164; increasing the $75 car registration fee to $85; standardizing SUV and minivan fees at $100; and amending the definition of hybrid vehicles so that the Department of Transportation can impose a new $75 fee on all versions of the vehicles.
Evers said during a news conference Monday to celebrate June as "Pride Month" for the LGBT community that raising registration fees doesn't make any sense because out-of-state drivers would pay nothing for using Wisconsin roads. Democrats on the finance committee sounded the same refrain earlier this month, calling the gas tax increase the fairest way to generate revenue.
The transportation funding wasn't the only change the finance committee made to the budget. The panel also stripped out dozens of Evers policy proposals, including expanding Medicaid and legalizing marijuana.
The full Assembly and Senate are expected to vote on the spending plan next week. Both chambers must pass an identical version of the document. Republicans control both chambers but a group of Republican fiscal hawks in the Senate has been complaining publicly that the budget spends too much on road and building projects. That could mean changes in the budget to appease them.
Once the budget clears the Legislature it will go back to Evers. He could sign it into law, veto it or use his partial veto power to rewrite sections and make the document more palatable to Democrats.
Evers declined to comment Monday on what he would do, saying he'll wait to see what emerges from the Legislature.
He said his staff plans to contact Republican leaders before the chambers vote to discuss the budget, but he expects that only Republican legislators will be able to force further revisions at this point.
Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, didn't immediately respond to an email. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said raising the gas tax isn't an option because it will result only in diminishing revenue as cars become more fuel efficient and more people turn to electric vehicles.
"Hiking the gas tax isn't a long-term solution," Fitzgerald said. "It's a Band-Aid that practically guarantees we'll have to go back to the taxpayers and beg for more of their money in the future."