Monday, July 30, 2007

Roads: The Property Tax Villain?

The environmentalists are putting out feelers to see if they gain any traction for their anti-car agenda by waving the banner of property tax relief. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz’s personal non-profit discovers the shocking news that taxpayers are paying for roads.

1000 Friends of Wisconsin: Wisconsin Property Taxpayers Shoulder $1.3 Billion in Road and Highway Costs Annually. Transit costs on the property taxes comparatively small.

“The widely held belief that Wisconsin drivers pay the full costs of road and highways through their gas taxes and registration fees is wrong,” said Steve Hiniker, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin. “Each year, roughly 40% of road and highway costs – totaling $1.3 billion - are shouldered by property taxpayers.”

“Legislators and special interests have tried to score political points claiming that recent transportation fund ‘raids’ break the trust of drivers,” said Hiniker. “It’s clear that the real transportation raid is on property taxpayers’ wallets – a tax shift approved by the legislature every two years equal to a 40-cent gas tax increase.” “Right now the system is set up to favor road building interests. Lawmakers direct an insufficient amount of gas taxes and registration fees to local roads and transit, which then get pitted against property tax relief at the local level.

Meanwhile the lion’s share of gas taxes and registration fees are used to totally subsidize the costs of highways,” said Hiniker. “Every dollar spent to expand a highway, whether it’s Highway 151, Highway 41 or the Marquette or Zoo Interchange, is a dollar in local road costs that gets shifted to property taxpayers.”

Let’s see, the real disservice to taxpayers is not that Governor Jim Doyle seizes highway funds to use them for other purposes, but rather that State money is being used for State Highway projects and the local roads are the responsibility of locals. I can only speculate about the reasoning process. Perhaps if the public can be convinced that bad road budgets rather than good education costs are the reason property taxes are excessive, then maybe people will come to resent roads.

Perfecting the places we live to protect the places we don’t”. The motto of 1000 Friends of Wisconsin accurately captures their true goal which is to prevent the spread of human habitat. In their ideal world people live like termites in giant confined colonies while real insects flourish in paradise.