Op Ed

Voters Strongly Support Higher Gas Tax

So maybe Republicans should embrace it as a solution.

By - Jun 21st, 2017 04:01 pm
Voters support an extra $4 a month for an immediate solution.

Voters support an extra $4 a month for an immediate solution.

The ground shifted a bit last week in discussions on transportation finance.

The Transportation Development Association (TDA) released a poll of likely Wisconsin voters conducted two weeks ago. The pollster, Gene Ulm, is well known to Wisconsin Republicans. For several decades, Ulm’s firm, Public Opinion Strategies, has done survey research for them.

The TDA press release, and a memo from Ulm, reinforce those who favor a higher gas tax.  Some highlights:

  1. Three of four voters support a gas tax increase. A 10-cent increase would cost motorists who drive 12,000 miles/year a measly $4-$5 a month. Most of those polled are fine with that.
  2. Voters oppose increased reliance on borrowing for road work. While elected officials talk of “living within our means,” when it comes to transportation neither Governor Scott Walker nor Governor Jim Doyle could deliver on that slogan. Their answer to stagnant gas tax revenue has been billions in new road debt. As a result, debt service under Doyle and Walker has tripled. Think of someone with $75,000 in income who uses a credit card to live a $100,000 lifestyle. Unsustainable.
  3. Nearly half of those polled think road conditions are getting worse. The Department of Transportation concurs. Without a hefty boost in highway rehabilitation funds, it forecasts a doubling of miles rated in “poor” condition.
  4. Voters oppose extended delays in SE Wisconsin freeway work.  Walker said last year that freeway reconstruction would halt “for the foreseeable future” after (partial) completion of the Zoo Interchange. Yet large sections of I-94 and I-43 are shot.  If not rebuilt, the state instead will spend hundreds of millions on short-term, patchwork repaving. It’s like throwing a layer of shingles on a house you know needs to be torn down.

Conventional wisdom holds that opposing a higher gas tax is “good politics.” Conventional wisdom has been wrong on many counts in the last two years. Is this another instance?

George Mitchell is a former journalist who has held positions in federal, state, and county government and served as a consultant to various governmental and private sector groups.

6 thoughts on “Op Ed: Voters Strongly Support Higher Gas Tax”

  1. Ken says:

    What a misleading headline. There wasn’t a referendum. If there was and it was approved then i would be fine with such a headline. Why not be truthful? A select group of people polled by some entity agreed to raise the gas taxes. I just wish we could get honest reporting and allow the readers and public the chance to form uncoerced opinions.

  2. Jason Troll says:

    The moment Republicans vote to raise taxes they will have damaged their political brand. Second, the challenger as governor in 2018 will club Scott Walker for raising taxes on middle class families. I can see the AD already of the struggling soccer mom in her SUV wondering why Walker betrayed her. Thankfully, Scott Walker is no RINO. Stay red baby.

  3. AG says:

    That was quite a demonstration on how to create a leading survey and how to manipulate data! Good job!

  4. Doug says:

    Walker has horribly mismanaged Wisconsin’s transportation system to the extent that our roads are among the worst in the country with a pile of transportation debt. That is how he could be defeated. Everyone relies on roads for transportation and they expect them to be in excellent condition. It’s easy to envision political ads in every area of the state showing horrible road conditions and rightfully blaming them on Walker. People want their roads fixed now with no more delays. Walker refuses to deliver that.

  5. Rita Brunkow says:

    Oh, let’s be honest. the GOP does not give a flying fart what people want and for the most part, neither does the Dem party – particularly the ones in Congress or those who aspire to be the corporate puppets next time. The Corporate State is firmly in place and will buy or steal anything and everything with which to squeeze out profits or more power. Submit! For heaven’s sake, have some dignity and stop begging to be taxed. That will come.

  6. Eric J says:

    The survey question states ” create an immediate solution to fix our roads”. Who wouldn’t be for that ? But I don’t think four dollars a month will accomplish that.

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