Wisconsin Transportation Fund Amendment, Question 1 (2014)

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Question 1
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Wisconsin Constitution
Referred by:Wisconsin Legislature
Topic:State and local government budgets, spending and finance on the ballot
Status:On the ballot

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2014 measures
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November 4
Question 1
Endorsements
Local measures
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The Wisconsin Transportation Fund Amendment, Question 1 is on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Wisconsin as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure would, upon voter approval, require that revenue generated by transportation fees and taxes be deposited into the state's transportation fund. None of the revenue collected from transportation-related levies could be appropriated to any program that is not directly administered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.[1] Therefore, the amendment would guarantee that revenue from transportation-related levies, such as the gas tax and vehicle registration fee, would be allocated to transportation-related projects.[2]

Text of the measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text reads as follows:[1]

Question 1: "Creation of a Transportation Fund. Shall section 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin's transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?"[3]

Ballot summary

As required by Section 10.01 (2) (c) of the Wisconsin Statutes, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's (R) office provided the following summary of the effects of Question 1:[4]

In general, funds collected in fees and taxes may be appropriated for any public purpose determined by the Legislature. Wisconsin’s transportation fund, which currently exists under statute, is designed to be the source of funding for all modes of transportation in the state. Wisconsin law requires that specific revenue streams such as taxes or fees related to motor vehicles, aircraft, and railroads be deposited into the transportation fund.

At times, the Legislature has transferred moneys initially deposited into the transportation fund to programs with non-transportation-related purposes. Such transfers have typically been to general revenue funds, which are used for state programs such as education, health care, and shared revenue. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has suggested that these transfers are permissible under current law.

In essence, the proposed amendment would change the Wisconsin Constitution to require that revenues generated by specified uses of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund and expended only for transportation-related purposes.

A “yes” vote on this question would establish a department of transportation and a transportation fund in the state constitution. The current Department of Transportation and transportation fund exist only under statute. A “yes” vote would mean that all funds collected from taxes or fees in existence after December 31, 2010 for the licensing of motor vehicle operators, for the titling, licensing, or registration of motor vehicles, for motor vehicle fuel, or for the use of roadways, highways, or bridges, and from taxes and fees levied or imposed for aircraft, airline property, or aviation fuel or for railroads or railroad property would be deposited in the transportation fund or with certain authorized parties, such as a trustee for the benefit of the department of transportation. Funds in the transportation fund may not be lapsed, further transferred, or used for any program that is not directly administered by the department of transportation in furtherance of the department’s responsibility for the planning, promotion, and protection of all transportation systems in the state (except for programs with an appropriation from the statutory transportation fund as of December 31, 2010). The proposed amendment does not define “transportation systems.”

A “no” vote would mean that the Department of Transportation continues to be a statutory agency. It also would mean that monies collected from motor vehicle, air-craft, and railroad fees and taxes could be appropriated by the Legislature for transportation systems or for other programs as determined by the Legislature.[3]

Constitutional changes

Wisconsin Constitution
Flag of Wisconsin.png
Preamble
Articles
IIIIIIIVVVIVIIVIIIIXXXIXIIXIIIXIV
See also: Article IV, Wisconsin Constitution and Article VIII, Wisconsin Constitution

The proposed amendment would add a Section 9(2) to Article IV and a Section 11 to Article VIII of the Constitution of Wisconsin:[1]

[Article IV] Section 9(2). The legislature shall provide by law for the establishment of a department of transportation and a transportation fund.

[Article VIII] Section 11. All funds collected by the state from any taxes or fees levied or imposed for the licensing of motor vehicle operators, for the titling, licensing, or registration of motor vehicles, for motor vehicle fuel, or for the use of roadways, highways, or bridges, and from taxes and fees levied or imposed for aircraft, airline property, or aviation fuel or for railroads or railroad property shall be deposited only into the transportation fund or with a trustee for the benefit of the department of transportation or the holders of transportation-related revenue bonds, except for collections from taxes or fees in existence on December 31, 2010, that were not being deposited in the transportation fund on that date. None of the funds collected or received by the state from any source and deposited into the transportation fund shall be lapsed, further transferred, or appropriated to any program that is not directly administered by the department of transportation in furtherance of the department's responsibility for the planning, promotion, and protection of all transportation systems in the state except for programs for which there was an appropriation from the transportation fund on December 31, 2010. In this section, the term "motor vehicle" does not include any all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, or watercraft.[3]


Background

Seal of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.svg

Transportation fund

The Wisconsin Transportation Fund receives revenue from transportation-related levies, including federal and state gas taxes, vehicle registration fees, driver license fees, motor carrier fees, aircraft registration fees, general aviation fuel taxes, the property tax on air carriers and the tax on rail property. The fund is the source of financing all transportation infrastructure, such as highways, air, rail, transit, harbors, bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It also funds the Division of Motor Vehicles and the Division of State Patrol.[5]

Approximately 56 percent of all transportation-related revenue comes from state sources. Wisconsin's gas tax and registration fees account for about 87 percent of state transportation-related revenue. As of July 2013, the gas tax is 30.9 cents per gallon, and the vehicle registration fee is $75 for automobiles. Revenue from the federal government accounts for 26 percent of all revenue to the transportation fund. Most of the federal money is raised through the federal gas tax, which is 18.4 cents per gallon.[5]

Local advisory questions

In 2010, 54 out of Wisconsin’s 72 counties voted on advisory questions that asked voters whether or not the legislature should pursue a constitutional amendment to ban allocating revenue from the transportation fund to solve other budget issues. All 54 counties approved the advisory question.

Support

VoteYesforTransporationWisconsin2014.png

Vote Yes for Transportation is leading the campaign in support of Question 1.[6]

Supporters

Officials

The following officials sponsored the amendment:[7][8]

Former officials

The following former officials sponsored the amendment:[7][8]

Organizations

  • AAA - Wisconsin[9]
  • Aggregate Producers of Wisconsin
  • American Council of Engineering Companies of Wisconsin
  • American Petroleum Institute
  • Centergy, Inc.
  • Constitution Business Group
  • Dairy Business Group
  • Discover Mediaworks
  • Easter Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission
  • Forward Janesville, Inc.
  • Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association
  • Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce
  • Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce
  • Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce
  • International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139
  • Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce
  • Midwest Food Processors Association
  • National Federation of Independent Businesses
  • Oshkosh Camber of Commerce
  • Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce
  • Transportation Development Association of Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin Agri-Business Association
  • Wisconsin Automobile & Truck Dealers Association
  • Wisconsin Automotive Aftermarket Association
  • Wisconsin Asphalt Pavement Association
  • Wisconsin Commercial Ports Association
  • Wisconsin Concrete Pavement Association
  • Wisconsin Counties Association
  • Wisconsin County Business Alliance
  • Wisconsin County Highway Association
  • Wisconsin Earth Movers Association
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Association
  • Wisconsin Grocers Association
  • Wisconsin Housing Alliance
  • Wisconsin Laborers’ District Council
  • Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce
  • Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association
  • Wisconsin Petroleum Council
  • Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association
  • Wisconsin Restaurant Association
  • Wisconsin Retail Council
  • Wisconsin Towns Association
  • Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association
  • Wisconsin Troopers’ Association
  • Wisconsin Urban & Rural Transit Association
  • 3M

Arguments


Vote Yes for Transportation's "The People Speak" video supporting Question 1.

Vote Yes for Transportation issued an information sheet detailing five reasons to support the amendment:

1. This amendment to constitutionally protect the transportation fund is just common sense. Wisconsin’s economy can’t grow without a healthy transportation network. The gas tax and vehicle registration fees we all pay were always intended to fund the upkeep of the system.
2. Most states have constitutional language limiting the use of transportation revenues.
3. The push for the amendment began and remains a grassroots, bipartisan movement. The coalition, which worked to have this item on the ballot, includes local governments, private businesses, organized labor, transportation associations, regional planning interests, housing organizations and many other groups.
4. Experience has shown that state laws to safeguard user fees don’t work. Wisconsin, in fact, has statutory language limiting the use of transportation user fee revenue to transportation purposes. That did not prevent the diversion of approximately $1.4 billion over the better part of a decade. An amendment to the constitution should provide the necessary firewall.
5. The Wisconsin Legislature passed a joint resolution in two consecutive sessions to place this item before the voters. Both times, the item passed by an overwhelming margin and with bipartisan support. The proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2014 ballot does nothing more than require the legislature use transportation user fee revenue for transportation purposes. [3]

—Vote Yes for Transportation, [9]

Campaign contributions

Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of July 30, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $375,664
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $0

The Vote Yes for Transportation Referendum Committee has raised approximately $375,664 as of July 30, 2014. The following data was obtained from the Wisconsin Campaign Finance Information System.[10]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Yes for Transportation Referendum Committee $375,634 $73,740
Total $375,634 $73,740

Top 5 contributors:

Donor Amount
Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association $150,000
Transportation Development Association $75,647
JLMWPF Public Affairs $50,000
Operating Engineers 139 PAC $30,000
Great Lakes Region Organizing Committee $25,000
Wisconsin Laborers-Employees Cooperation and Education Trust $25,000
International Union of Operating Engineers #139 $20,000

Opposition

Opponents

Officials

The following officials voted against the amendment:[7][8]

Former officials

The following former officials voted against the amendment:[7][8]

Arguments

  • Rep. Gary Hebl (D-46) disagreed with putting constitutional protections on one segregated fund, but not the other segregated funds. He viewed this as prioritizing transportation over other important budget issues, such as education and health care, since the transportation fund could not be raided, but the other funds could still be raided. Rep. Chris Kapenga (R-99), the only Republican to vote against the amendment, issued a similar statement, saying all segregated state funds should be protected, not just the transportation fund.[11]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the Wisconsin Constitution

A simple majority vote was required in two successive sessions of the Wisconsin Legislature to put the amendment before voters. SJR 23, from the first session, was approved in the Wisconsin State Assembly and Wisconsin Senate on May 17, 2011.[7] AJR 2, from the second session, was approved in the assembly and senate on February 14 and February 20, 2013, respectively.[8]

Senate vote

May 17, 2011 Senate vote

Wisconsin Question 1, SJR 23 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 26 81.25%
No618.75%

February 20, 2013 Senate vote

Wisconsin Question 1, AJR 2 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 25 75.76%
No824.24%

Assembly vote

May 17, 2011 Assembly vote

Wisconsin Question 1, SJR 23 Assembly Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 82 88.17%
No1111.83%

February 14, 2013 Assembly vote

Wisconsin Question 1, AJR 2 Assembly Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 82 86.32%
No1313.68%

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