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State officials consider mileage fee

Wisconsin officials are thinking about making motorists pay fees according to how many miles they drive. The fees would be in addition to the gas taxes and vehicle registration fees that drivers already pay.

The added fee would help cover an expected shortfall of almost $9 billion to maintain current transportation facilities and pay for new highway projects that have been committed. Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb chairs an advisory panel that's looking at ways for Wisconsin to generate more revenue for things like new highways.

Lawmakers created the panel after admitting that the current gas tax and vehicle fees will fall far short of meeting the state's future transportation needs. The mileage-based fee would be the first in the nation, and even if the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission recommends the fee, it would still need to be approved by the governor and Legislature.

Motorists would report their odometer readings to the state. Commissioners talked about putting GPS monitors on people's vehicles to check their mileage, but there was little interest in that.

Gottlieb said the mileage fee could kick in after a certain number of miles, so those who don't drive very much wouldn't get hit. And there could be a cap at the high end as well. Gottlieb said other states have had pilot projects, but none have adopted the mileage fee on a statewide basis.

The commission is expected to make its final recommendations by December.