The city of Wausau has now completed nine public hearings and information sessions regarding the proposed wheel tax referendum, which is an important part of the educational process on roadway funding.
Mayor Robert Mielke makes his case for the wheel tax, an issue voters will weigh in on Nov. 8.
We have brought forward an issue that has been frequently ignored by previous and current local and state leadership and now needs to be addressed. Furthermore, Wausau is the only municipality in the state to let their residents have a say on this issue.
As taxpayers, we continue to pay state and county taxes and fees, but are not receiving our fair share. It is disappointing that citizens demand that the city not increase local taxes — such as this wheel tax — but they’re not holding their own state and county leadership accountable.
Frankly, this roadway funding gap was not caused by the city’s leadership or by our taxpayers. We continue to maintain our roads, and our staff continues to do more with significantly less funding from the state than we had only six years ago. A recent report showed that state revenues were up last year 3.8% in the last fiscal year, but again, they reduced our share of those resources. Clearly, the state’s budget is being balanced on the backs of local communities, especially for shared revenue for roads. That is why so many communities in Wisconsin now have to even entertain a local wheel tax.
RELATED: Wheel tax informational meetings set
A few weeks ago, I proposed a city-county partnership to the Marathon County Board of Supervisors and I again reiterate that need for partnership. Wausau deserves our fair share of a collected tax, especially because we maintain over 10 miles of county highways in city limits. I hope that Wausau taxpayers can appreciate that whether this referendum passes or fails, as mayor, I will continue to hold the state and county accountable and fight to get back our share of funding. This is not a “freebie” or a “handout” that I am looking for. We have already paid into these budgets. Why can we not get any of our money back?
RELATED: And the wheels go round and round
Just days after our initial discussion on the wheel tax and following the action of many other local municipalities who are in the same situation, Gov. Scott Walker noted that local communities would see the first increase in years of roadway funding. I thank Gov. Walker for acknowledging this situation, for noting that this is not Wausau’s fault. I encourage the legislature to restore our funding. If our fair share of lost funding was restored, there would be zero reason or need for a wheel tax. That is the plain truth.
If funding is not restored, I call on those who are quick to complain to the city to call their legislators or county supervisors and hold them accountable, too.