MADISON - The Wisconsin Legislature's top Republicans say they'll scrap Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' budget proposal to raise the gas tax to help pay for roads but may consider raising registration fees.
Evers' budget would raise the gas tax by 8 cents per gallon initially and then by about a penny annually to account for inflation. The state currently charges 32.9 cents in total taxes per gallon.
Evers' spending plan also calls for raising heavy truck registration and new car title fees. The $75 registration fee most car owners pay wouldn't change under the governor's plan.
Taken together his proposal would generate an additional $608 million for transportation over the next two years.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday that Republicans on the Legislature's finance committee plan to revise Evers' transportation proposals June 6. He says the GOP has ruled out raising the gas tax but may increase registration fees, title fees and heavy truck fees but didn't say how much.
Tolling also could be an option but it would take time to implement and wouldn't generate revenue right away, Fitzgerald said. He doesn't think some Republican proposals to shift more revenue from income and sales taxes toward transportation will survive, he added.
"I don't think it's necessary," he told the newspaper.
Fitzgerald's spokesman, Dan Romportl, declined further comment in an email to The Associated Press.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos issued a statement Friday saying he believes a gas tax increase would be "tough to get done."
Fitzgerald said the finance committee could finish revisions on the budget in June. The spending plan would then have to pass both houses of the Legislature before it could go to Evers' desk. The governor can then use his partial veto powers to rewrite the document.
Fitzgerald said he hoped to reach compromises with Evers on how he'll use those powers. Republicans have a strained relationship with Evers and things got worse this month after Evers suggested Republicans are sexist because they won't negotiate with his chief of staff, Maggie Gau, because she's a woman.
The majority leader said Friday claims that Republicans are sexist are ridiculous. He said GOP leaders simply haven't been able to strike an effective line of communication.
Asked about his relationship with Gau, Fitzgerald told the newspaper: "It's just not — I don't know why — it's just not a comfortable kind of — you know, and everyone's got their own way. We just can't strike what that is right now."
Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in an email to the AP that the governor wants to work with both parties but it's up to Republican leaders to agree among themselves and bring "concrete plans" to the table as a starting point for negotiations.
She called Evers' transportation proposals "a sustainable plan" that will ensure out-of-state visitors pay for using Wisconsin roads through the gas tax and Republicans would have to raise registration fees by more than $60 to generate the same amount of revenue as Evers' plan.
State Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson, an Evers appointee, told the AP in a phone interview that raising the gas tax is the fairest way to generate revenue.
"I don't consider anything dead until negotiations are over," Thompson said. "It's encouraging (Republican leaders) understand there's a problem and they want to fix it."