Mark Gottlieb discusses new transportation report

Home » Here and Now » All Episodes » Mark Gottlieb discusses new transportation report

Mark Gottlieb discusses new transportation report

Premiere Date: 
January 17, 2013

Mark Gottlieb talks about a new report released by the Transportation Commission.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Zac Schultz:

We shift from mining to transportation. Another topic where the state is looking for a solution to a big problem. Where do we find the money to maintain our transportation infrastructure? Over the next decade the number of people and goods flowing through Wisconsin’s roads, transit systems, airports and harbors will continue to increase. Department of Transportation officials say without a significant financial investment the conditions of that transportation system will deteriorate. A new roads commission report coming out next week lays out the need for greater investment in our state’s roads and highways. The secretary of the Department of Transportation joins us now, Mark Gottlieb. Thanks for being here.

Mark Gottlieb:

My pleasure.

Zac Schultz:

How serious is this problem? It appears the consequences of no action are pretty severe, both for the economy and just for quality of life.

Mark Gottlieb:

Well, as the governor said in the State of the State address earlier this week,  a great safe, efficient transportation system provides a competitive advantage to our manufactures, to agriculture and to tourism, which are the drivers of Wisconsin's economy. I think the legislature created this commission because they understood that we're on a somewhat unsustainable path, and that we are going to continue to lose ground, and that we won't have the resources in the transportation fund to be able to make the investments we ought to be making to make sure we keep the great system that we have.

Zac Schultz:

You've listed four different investment scenarios over the next 10 years and we have a graphic showing those. They range– scenario one is if we don't increase any funding at all. Scenario four is a big investment of enhancement. But I want the look at scenarios two and three. Two is called Preservation and three is Capacity Management.  There is a $10 billion price tag difference. What's the difference on the ground?

Mark Gottlieb:

I think really what the scenarios show is that what commission has come up with really isn't a wish list. It's a minimal amount of needs that we have. The Preservation scenario is essentially the additional investment that we would need to make as a state just to protect the physical condition of the infrastructure that we have, to make sure our state highway and local highways don't deteriorate further in they’re condition. But it takes no account for other modal improvements we might want to make to enhance transit for an aging population, or to meet expanding capacity needs where we have congestion, particularly in urban areas like Milwaukee or Madison. The Preservation option or scenario is fairly bare bones. Let's protect the asset we have physically, but doesn't do anything to deal with capacity or enhancing service in other modes.

Zac Schultz:

$10 billion, even in state dollars that's still a lot of money.

Mark Gottlieb:

It's a lot of money.

Zac Schultz:

In talking about how to raise that money the commission will have a report that will be finalized next week that has ideas on where to get the money. We have another graphic for this. Increasing the gas tax by 5 cents a gallon. Increase registration for commercial vehicles. Increase the cost of a driver's license. Collecting sales tax on the value of trade-in vehicles, and adopting a news mileage-based registration fee of 1.02 cents per mile for passenger cars and light trucks. Tell me how that new registration fee would work for most people?

Mark Gottlieb:

Okay. Let me just start, real quickly, by saying that the commission's guiding principle on the revenue side of this equation was that they wanted us to keep a user-funded transportation system, and make sure that what people paid was proportional to their use of the system. The mileage base registration fee they saw as one way to srt of get away from the decoupling of gas taxes and miles traveled that we've seen over the years, and that we'll continue to see. It used to be the gas tax was a fairly good proxy for how much you drove. But as vehicles become more efficient we have alternative fueled vehicles, we need to look for a different way. The mileage-based registration fee would be a simple system tacked onto the existing vehicle registration program that we have. You pay a $75 flat fee. Under this system that the commission is proposing, every year you would report, with your re-registration, you would report your odometer mileage. We would calculate how many miles you drove that vehicle in the last year and you would pay-- you would get 3,000 miles credited to you that you would not be charged for, and then beyond, that for the next 17,000 miles your registration fee would be one cent, as you said, about one cent per mile. And above that 17,000 miles then you wouldn't pay anything additional.

Zac Schultz:

Looking at the report. it says if all of these are adopted the typical passenger vehicle will increase in cost about $120 a year.

Mark Gottlieb:

Right. All the tax and fee recommendations that the commission made for the typical vehicle, driven typical miles, typical fuel efficiency, would be $10 a month, or about 33 cents a day.

Zac Schultz:

Now, these aren't all going to pass. We've already heard from Republicans and the governor saying they aren't interested in increasing the gas tax, and some of these others, there’s a lot of questions about who will support it and where it comes from. What realistically do you think will become law?

Mark Gottlieb:

I think that– I think that there is becoming a wide recognition in the state, and this goes back to why the commission was created. The findings of the commission are consistent with what other commissions-- I served on a legislative commission similar to this about six years ago that came to some of the same conclusions. I think everyone’s-- we're getting to consensus where people realize we need to do something if we’re going to continue to have a safe and efficient system. The commission's recommendations are one way this gap can be filled and the problem can be solved. But certainly there are a lot of other ways. I think this is something that the legislature and the public are going to have to have a public debate about. I think one of the values in the commission report is that, you know,  we're giving them a data driven basis upon which to have a serious public policy discussion. But whether these individual recommendations, you know,  become law, you know, remains to be seen. But I think the important thing is we recognizing we have a situation we need to deal with.

Zac Schultz:

You served in the legislature. You were a high-ranking member of the Republicans in the assembly. You have a lot of connections there. Can you shepherd some of these through? Will you be part of the effort to go to them and say, I know you don't want to raise taxes, I know you have other priorities, but we really need to get this money?

Mark Gottlieb:

You know, I think our role as an agency, and mine as a secretary, and a member of the governor's cabinet is to certainly provide both the governor and legislature with the facts that they need to have. And leave it to them to make the policy decisions about, you know, where or how they gonna raise this money. I think we've provided them–  the commission has provided them, with the department's help, I think a great starting point of data and information upon which to make their decisions.

Zac Schultz:

And if nothing happens in this next budget and it keeps getting pushed down the road, does it become more severe? Does the price tag go up again?

Mark Gottlieb:

Oh, it does. I mean, this is a problem that the longer you put off dealing with it, the more serious it becomes. Our department made a budget recommendation to the governor back in November for this upcoming biennium that the governor is currently  reviewing that had–  Just because our revenue picture is what it is, we proposed some fairly serious reductions in certain areas of the state highway program that would definitely be noticeable, and that will continue into the future unless some action is taken to bring some revenue into the transportation fund.

Zac Schultz:

He is releasing the budget next month. Very quickly, do you know if any of this will be in it?

Mark Gottlieb:

The governor will be releasing his budget on February 12th. I know he’s been interested in what the commission has done, and I think– you know, there’s a number of things going on right now. I think we'll just wait to see what the governor proposes on the 12th.

Zac Schultz:

We're all excited to hear that. Thank you very much for your time, Secretary Gottlieb.

Mark Gottlieb:

Thank’s very much for having me. I appreciate it.


We’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comment or story suggestion.

Get to know the Here and Now crew.

Find information on elections and candidates and connect to coverage from Wisconsin Public Television and Radio.