Taxes on vehicles makes sense for road repair

Taxes on vehicles makes sense for road repair

Before last week, I had no idea what a wheel tax was. Hearing it described as a small fee to help pay for road-related things such as additional snow removal costs, I thought the tax might be applied for each tire a driver has on a vehicle.


After considering whether I’d actually be taxed for every wheel on my car, my curiosity got the best of me and I researched.


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation does not tax solely based on a vehicle’s number of wheels, as wheel tax is a common name for the municipal or county vehicle registration fee.


This fee, by Wisconsin law, allows a city, county, town or village to collect an annual, unspecified fee additionally with first vehicle registration and registration renewal fees of vehicles at 8,000 pounds or less.


WisDOT collects wheel taxes for the municipality or county, keeps an administrative fee of 10 cents per vehicle and send the rest to the municipality or county.


Yet since it became an option nearly 50 year ago, only 10 governments have established it. Currently Milwaukee, Beloit, Janesville, Appleton, St. Croix County and nearby Chippewa County levy wheel taxes.


While the fees range historically from $5-20 in Wisconsin, I was initially upset with such an open-ended law existing in the first place. The unspecified cap is eerie and makes me think a major fee could be imposed if a county was really hurting for funds.


Appleton Post Crescent’s Nick Penzenstadler reported Appleton spends about $5 million per year on road repairs, and with state records showing 85,657 cars fitting the wheel tax category, the fund would generate about $1.7 million annually.


1000 Friends of Wisconsin reported between 2004 and 2008, state road costs averaged $4.24 billion annually. Of that, $1.74 billion came from revenue sources that weren’t road-related, including property and sales taxes.


Using almost $2 billion of taxpayers money to pay for roads that the taxpayer may not necessarily use is unfair.


Considering the other revenue-creating options, I favor a possible wheel tax in my county as opposed to adding toll roads. Simply as a matter of convenience, I’d prefer to pay my community an additional $10 or $20 annually instead of keeping change on me or having to swipe my credit card every time I leave or enter the city limits.