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Assembly rejects gas-tax, high-cost registration

Wisconsin Assembly leaders say there's no way they'll approve a higher gasoline tax and a new vehicle registration fee that increases according to mileage driven.

Those were the two main ideas endorsed Jan. 23 by a bi-partisan commission, which called on motorists to pay an average of $120 more each year to maintain roads and other transportation facilities.

Assembly Republican Majority Leader Scott Suder said raising taxes would only "damage our recovering economy." He said any increase in the state gas tax is "simply off the table."

The commission proposed a five-cent hike in the gas tax, the first such increase since 2006. It also wanted motorists to report how many miles they travel in a year, and pay a license-plate fee ranging up to $204 for those driving 20,000 miles per year.

Suder and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also struck that down. The commission suggested higher registration fees for other vehicles, a jump in the driver license fee, and imposing sales taxes on trade-in vehicles.

Panel member Bob Cook said he hoped the ideas would lead to a compromise. Commission member John Antaramian, a former state lawmaker and Kenosha mayor, said something has to be done. Governor Scott Walker might not like the idea of raising taxes, but Antaramian said, "the options are limited."

Walker's office did not comment on the panel's ideas. The governor is expected to propose his own on February 20, when he submits his next budget package to the Legislature.