PRAT legislation officially introduced in assembly, senate
By Caroline Hecker, Multi-Media Journalist
Posted: Oct 18, 2017 5:10 PM CDTUpdated: Nov 01, 2017 5:11 PM CDT
La Crosse, WI (WXOW) –On Wednesday, Representative Steve Doyle and Senator Jennifer Shilling introduced legislation allowing for a binding referendum on the highly debated premier resort area tax.
It’s seen as a way to fund improvements to deteriorating county roads, but it’s encountering mixed reviews.
In April, an advisory referendum passed 55 percent to 45 percent in favor of the tax, which would bring in an estimated $6 million a year to enhance infrastructure.
While the legislative session is nearing its end for the year, La Crosse County is hopeful the issue will get picked back up in the senate and assembly beginning in January.
“I think it would have been different if the legislature would have passed its budget on time,” La Crosse County Board Chair Tara Johnson, said. “Their three month delay kind of held the PRAT legislation hostage too.”
La Crosse County is currently responsible for 285 miles of roadway and around 69 bridges. However, it also has $87 million in deferred maintenance, which does not include the towns, cities and villages and their deferred maintenance costs.
“At the local level we’ve been trying every option possible and waiting for the state legislature to do what they should be doing and fulfilling their responsibility,” Johnson said. “They haven’t done that.”
Johnson said because of the delay, the short term future of the county’s transportation woes will include short term borrowing.
“It’s exactly what we’ve been trying to stop doing,” Johnson said. “We’re hoping the PRAT enables us to stop doing that borrowing. We’re kicking the can down the road.”
Last week, the La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual event “Oktoberfest in the Capitol,” which included several city and county officials lobbying against the PRAT legislation.
“Implementing this county sales tax is not going to solve the funding problem for roads in the city of La Crosse,” La Crosse County Republican Party Chair Bill Feehan, said. “The people of the city of La Crosse are going to pay probably half of this tax and the money they’re paying is not going to fix the roads in the city of La Crosse.”
Feehan said he set up meetings with members of the senate and assembly transportation committees.
“They said they didn’t want it to pass either,” he said.
Johnson said if the state legislature approves the legislation in both the senate and assembly, the PRAT would go to a binding referendum to allow voters to decide if they want to implement the tax.