Looking Ahead

Vehicle Registration Fee - Future Plans

County Executive Abele, working with the County Board, is committed to seeking statutory changes to the state law authorizing the local vehicle registration fee.  That law is Wisconsin Statute 341.35 and you can view it at: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/341/II/35. As you can see, the VRF is required by law to be a flat fee per car and currently excludes motorcycles and any heavy vehicles over 8,000 pounds, such as semi-trucks and dump trucks.  The county will seek to change this law to allow a more equitable way of assessing the fee.  


The County Executive will convene a public/private taskforce to make recommendations to the County and State on the best way to change the local VRF.  We are working with legislators to identify if a fee based on the age of a vehicle, the weight of the vehicle, the value of the vehicle, or the income of the owner is the most equitable way to determine the fee or perhaps a combination of some or all of these measures.  There are diverse examples from around the country on how different states and localities assess their fee.  You can see how the 50 states charge registration through this table from the National Conference of State Legislatures (http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/registration-and-title-fees-by-state.aspx) further research is highlighted below. 


While the County will work for and lobby for changes to the VRF, the fee is certainly as not as regressive as opponents have charged.  Despite their emotional pleas to the contrary, academic research actually points out that the more cars in a household usually accounts for a higher household income and hence, “would not impose a disparate economic burden on lower-income vehicle owners”.  You can read the report from the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at UW-Madison at: http://urbanmilwaukee.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/vehiclefee.pdf


The County Executive and County Board have charged the Office of Government Affairs with advocating for changes to the VRF with state lawmakers.  Conversations have already begun with Democratic and Republican lawmakers on this topic. 


SEWRPC Research on Vehicle Registration Fee

Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) staff has researched vehicle registration fees in select communities and states across the country. Their research includes a description of how the fee is calculated (where applicable) and any exemptions to the fee that may exist.


National League of Cities Research

The National League of Cities conducted research which looked at local infrastructure funding.  Their report highlights the need for creative funding approaches for transportation services at the local level. 

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