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Advisory Referendum on Vehicle Registration Fee on Ballot Next Week

Mar. 28, 2017
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Photo credit: Mel Green

There is a Milwaukee County advisory referendum on the Tuesday, April 4 ballot regarding a vehicle registration fee (VRF). Since it is advisory, it is obviously non-binding so it is the equivalent of taking a poll. The problem is that it is written in such a way that it limits the voter’s options. For background, state law limits the type of taxes that Milwaukee County can levy. One tax the county can impose is a vehicle registration fee or what is called a wheel tax. The tax would be a flat fee on all vehicles. It is a regressive tax in that it takes a larger percentage of the income of a lower income person than a higher income person. Right now, state law prohibits a county from basing the tax on the value of the vehicle, for example, which could make the tax less regressive.

County Executive Chris Abele proposed a $60 wheel tax on top of the $75 state wheel tax and a $20 city wheel tax. The county board proposed a $30 Milwaukee County wheel tax. This referendum just asks you whether you support Abele’s $60 wheel tax. The language of the referendum is as follows:

“Do you support County Executive Chris Abele’s proposal for a $60 Vehicle Registration Fee (wheel tax) to provide designated funding for transit and transportation-related projects?”


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