Wisconsin's Car Rental Fee Increase Is in Limbo

Uncertainty over timing and money is cause for debate over when to begin a car rental fee increase that would pay for the state of Wisconsin’s Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter rail, according to the Daily Reporter. To approve grants for commuter rail construction, the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (RTA) needs the state to approve new legislation and for the federal government to approve grants for commuter rail construction.

But RTA directors do not know if or when the state will pass the car rental tax. Because of that, the RTA does not know when to apply for the federal money.

The RTA board has not decided if it should increase the car rental fee now to pay for planning and engineering or wait until the state enacts the law and the federal government provides the money. The board in December voted to oppose immediately levying a $2 fee on car rentals in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties.

Michael Mayo, a member of the RTA board and a Milwaukee County Board supervisor who voted against the fee, said too many questions exist to start taxing car rentals now. Various draft bills would authorize new local taxes, such as a sales tax increase, to pay for local bus systems. Mayo also said he has not seen a budget that would show how the RTA would spend the money from the car rental fee.

The question of when or whether to increase the car rental fee is secondary to getting a new state law passed, said Kerry Thomas, executive director of Transit Now, also known as the Southeastern Wisconsin Coalition for Transit.

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