MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency orders during the COVID-19 outbreak has kept most Wisconsinites at home, many off the roads.
But state and local governments are making sure their wheel taxes keep rolling on. They do so even as citizens have lost their jobs and livelihoods.
Ariana Vruwink, spokeswoman for Dane County Executive Joe Parisi told Empower Wisconsin that Dane County’s local wheel tax will still be collected while the Safer at Home order is in effect. Dane County’s $28 vehicle registration fee brought in nearly $12 million last year.
Several other cities, including Madison, Green Bay and Appleton, confirmed that they have filed their wheel tax collection paperwork with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and that it would be up to the DOT whether or not to collect the tax. By all accounts, the taxing mechanism goes on.
In 2019, local governments collected more than $26 million in wheel taxes. That does not include the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County, which have failed to provide their annual figures to Empower Wisconsin despite repeated requests. The city of Madison just began collecting its wheel tax. At $40, it’s the highest vehicle registration fee in the state.
Using DOT estimates, however, the city of Milwaukee’s $20 tax is expected to have taken in approximately $6.14 million. Milwaukee County’s $30 wheel tax is estimated to have generated $16.75 million. And Madison is projected to take in $7.37 million, which is more than Milwaukee, despite having fewer cars.
Across the state, the smallest wheel tax was collected by the village of Tigerton, which took in $6,300 in 2019. The little Shawano County community of 700 residents charges its motorists $10 for each car. Residents of Madison pay the highest combined tax at $68 – between the city and county fees.
Rep. Joe Sanfelippo (R-New Berlin) introduced a bill this session requiring wheel taxes be approved by local referenda. The League of Municipalities vowed to kill that bill.