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Tax group warns of residents paying for new, improved highways

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The head of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance says residents will pay a high cost for the decision to borrow for new and improved highways, instead of raising more money for them.

Many Republicans said they had no choice. They note that highways are crumbling after lawmakers of both parties transferred hundreds of millions of dollars in road funds to schools and other items under former Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.

The new state budget borrows close to $1 billion for new road work.

Todd Berry of the Tax Alliance says borrowing now accounts for 16 percent of all road revenues, compared to a six-percent a decade ago.

At the current pace, Berry says $1 of every $4 DOT money in 2023 would pay for previous debt. He said one problem was the state’s decision in 2005 to end automatic gas tax hikes every year that were adjusted for inflation.

He said a stagnant gas tax effectively loses value each year, while income and sales tax hikes rise according to how much more people make and spend.

Berry says officials will need to make tough decisions on how state road funds are spent – and some projects might have to be dropped to avoid more borrowing.