By Roger Utnehmer
Civil Discourse: An Occasional Attempt to Restore Civility to Our Civil Discourse
The proposed one-half percent sales tax to deal with crumbling Sturgeon Bay streets is a short-term solution to a long-term state-wide problem.
The Wisconsin legislature should increase the gas tax. Cities should not increase the tax burden on their most vulnerable citizens by imposing another regressive tax. Sales taxes hurt the poor and vulnerable most by taking a disproportionate share of their disposable income. Government services should be funded fairly.
A gas tax, on the other hand, raises money to maintain streets, roads and highways from the people who use them. Sturgeon Bay senior citizens who drive just a few thousand miles a year should not be penalized when purchasing products totally unrelated to transportation. Fair funding would charge the users of Wisconsin highways for the service government provides to them. A gas tax increase does that. It would also allow the state to capture tax revenue from visiting valuable tourists, the vast majority of whom drive to Wisconsin.
Sturgeon Bay City Council Member David Ward has done a commendable job studying the need to fund local streets. His Ad Hoc Committee has raised issues worthy of debate and discussion. However, picking on local consumers to pay for an unfair share of an unfair sales tax is not the solution voters should support.
A “NO” vote on the April sales tax referendum will send a message to state legislators that it is their responsibility to deal with crumbling streets, roads and highways as a state-wide, not just local, problem. The “No Tax Increase” pledge of our governor and many legislators is not responsible. It just pushes the tax burden on to local government while allowing them to shirk responsibility for political gain of sounding conservative.
And the gas tax should also be pegged to increases in the consumer price index. A slight increase in the gas tax as the economy expands is much better public policy than dealing with the delay and transportation fund deficit we face today.
A “NO” vote on a Sturgeon Bay sales tax will send a message in favor of fairness and legislative responsibility.
That’s my opinion. I’d like to hear yours.