State needs to heed county’s sales tax example

COUNTY RESIDENTS HAVE BEEN paying half a cent more on every dollar of taxable items they have purchased for more than two weeks now.

The half-percent county sales tax went into effect Jan. 1 and to this point it’s quite likely that most of us have barely noticed its impact. We’ve paid an extra penny for a $2 cup of coffee since then, or an extra 50 cents on a $100 cell phone – not really much of an impact, in the grand scheme of things.

Yet, we will all soon be able to see the impact of that extra tax revenue every time we take to the road in our cars in the future.

The County Board, when it became the 64th of Wisconsin’s 72 counties to adopt the county sales tax, wisely designated all of the proceeds from the tax for highway maintenance and repair.

They also had the foresight and vision to set aside a portion of the sales tax proceeds to share with local cities, villages and townships for them to use on road maintenance and repair as well.

From one end of the county to the other, from the town of Sherman to the town of Plymouth and everywhere in between, plans are already in motion to utilize those extra dollars to fix local town roads. Those extra road projects will come to fruition in the next few years and beyond.

All of us who use or depend on streets, roads and highways in our daily lives – and let’s face it, that’s really all of us – will reap the benefits of that extra half penny on every dollar for the county sales tax.

It will make it easier for all of us to get to work, to school, to home, to events or anywhere else if roads are in better shape – and it will end up costing us less to maintain our vehicles if they are not being beaten up on bad roads. And even those who don’t drive will reap the benefits of easier, less expensive and more efficient movement of goods and products on better roads and highways.

County leaders wisely found a beneficial, universal purpose for the additional county sales tax and we will all see the positive impact every day.

It’s a lesson that should not be lost on state officials, who are struggling with a tight budget and a declining transportation system with a number of major road projects overdue for completion – or even starting.

A struggle might be looming between the governor – who is clinging stubbornly to his pledge of not raising any taxes for any purpose whatsoever – and his fellow Republicans in the Legislature – many of whom have expressed their willingness to consider tax or fee increases if needed to maintain and even upgrade the state’s highway and transportation system.

It’s a given that no one likes to pay more in taxes or fees, if at all possible. But it’s also a given that roads are one government service that everyone relies on and is vital to the state’s economic wellbeing.

A lot of ideas and suggestions will be floated to help finance the needed maintenance and upgrade of that system over the coming months. It would be a shame and a disservice if any of those options are ruled out before they can even be considered and weighed.

As Sheboygan County residents are finding, paying an extra halfpenny here and there can be worth it if the results can be seen – and driven on – every day.

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