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Road referendum vote sends message to county and state government

Close look at roadLa Crosse, Wis. (WXOW) – La Crosse County voters made their voice clear to county leaders. Roads and infrastructure are important and they want to see them funded.

Another clear message was how they want to pay with them, not by a wheel tax or borrowing money, but through a Premier Resort Area, or PRAT, tax.

78 percent of voters said yes to spending $5 million on road needs in the county. The only agreed upon way to pay for it was the PRAT tax with 68 percent in favor of that.

“Really clear message from the voters,” Johnson said. “Yes we want to invest more in roads and PRAT is the way to go about it.”

However, now the next step falls on the state making a change.

The county has about $101 million in unmet road needs and generating funds to pay for it has been a struggle with caps put on the tax levy. This is the second time voters supported a PRAT tax, with 55 percent supporting the question in April of 2017.

“Hopefully the Wisconsin State legislature this time will hear the voice of the voters and respect democracy,” Johnson added.

The PRAT is estimated to generate $6.6 million annually, but the statute was started specifically for the Wisconsin Dells and the state legislature would have to determine the La Crosse area qualified.

Johnson believes voters know this wouldn’t only impact tourist in the area as the tax would go on things like restaurants, bars, hotels and theaters to name a few.

“What I heard was and what I believed the vote tells us is at least some of it is being shared by others,” she added.

She echoes that by citing the wheel tax and property tax increase’s overwhelming denial. Johnson feels state elected officials wanted to make sure counties heard from their voters. It’s now time they also listened.

“That’s how they wrote the law. Now we are doing it. They should listen,” she finished.

Johnson says Rep. Steve Doyle already plans to introduce legislation to give the county the waiver. They are hopeful Rep. Jill Billings and Sen. Jennifer Shilling will co-sponsor the bill.

On the other two referendum questions, 68 percent said no to a wheel tax and 74 percent said no to increasing the property tax to pay down borrowing on loans.

Jeremy Culver

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