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GOP Road Plan Could Kill Milwaukee Co. Wheel Tax

Just months after it was introduced, a $30 "Wheel Tax" paid by drivers in Milwaukee County could be on the way out.

A new Transportation Funding Proposal laid out by Assembly GOP leaders Thursday calls for the removal of new wheel taxes state-wide. It also calls for the removal of wheel taxes established in 2017, of which there is only one: Milwaukee County.

     "Anybody who has already built it into their budget before this year is allowed to retain their wheel tax," said Robin Vos. "Milwaukee did it after April 1st, and that's why they wouldn't." 

The County Board approved the $30 Wheel Tax in November, 2016. This past April, voters overwhelmingly rejected an advisory referendum asking if they'd support an additional $30 tax. 

County Executive Chris Abele called the news a surprise, saying he was never contacted beforehand about the proposal. The money is used to fund various transit projects in Milwaukee County. 

     "It's current right now, we do collect it, and our budget this year assumes our revenue," he says. "So if we don't have it, we have to come up with $7M of cuts this year, $16M of cuts this year, and it only gets worse." 

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, "there would be no state fiscal effects related to this proposal." Milwaukee County leaders question why it's included in a state budget, if it will have no impact on the state. 

     "The only one that would be eliminated is Milwaukee County," says Abele. 

County Board Chairman Theo Lipscomb says it's unclear where those cuts would come from. 

     "This would create a significant problem, a devastating impact in terms of transportation, particularly transit projects going forward," he says. "It's difficult to see what else could make up for this. There is currently no approved source." 

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