A vehicle registration fee is Milwaukee County's only option for raising new revenue to sustain transit, according to County Executive Chris Abele, because no state approval is needed. Gov. Walker has opposed any increase in the sales or income tax. Abele estimates a $60 annual fee charged to people who own vehicles here would raise $27 million a year to help pay for the transit system and to fund annual bus replacements, as well as to repairs to county highways, parkways and bridges.
Abele will include the wheel tax in his proposed 2017 budget. He says the county must do what it can to keep its transit system healthy, in an era when the state and federal governments have been reducing transportation aids. Abele calls transit a 'major driver of economic development, connecting people with jobs and opportunity."
Regarding people who may have difficulty paying another $60 a year to own and operate a car here (the state collects $75 annually, while the City of Milwaukee charges $20), Abele says he'll ask a task force to examine ways of making a new fee affordable for lower-income vehicle owners. For instance, the county might index the fee based on the value or age of the auto.
The County Executive has included a proposal to continue offering the Go Pass program. It has allowed people over age 65 to ride the buses for free. Abele also wants to continue advancing his Bus Rapid Transit initiative - a plan to create express bus lanes on certain streets extending between Milwaukee and Wauwatosa.
Abele will release his entire budget on Friday and present the package to the County Board, on Monday.