La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat Tuesday announced his intention to introduce a wheel tax for the city.

Mayor Tim Kabat


He’s proposing a motor vehicle registration fee, also known as a local wheel tax, of $25 per vehicle that would sunset after five years, which Kabat says would allow the city to catch up on street repairs and build quality roads. The proposal would generate $1.2 million in additional transportation funding each year, which Kabat said would allow the city to keep fixing five to seven miles of road per year.

“If we can do that over the next several years, we will make some great progress in getting caught up and especially addressing some of these really chronic streets,” Kabat said.

The mayor is looking to a wheel tax because of flat state aid and shared revenue, plus limited options to raise property taxes due to state-imposed levy limits.

“We do not necessarily have a whole lot of other funding mechanisms to focus on transportation,” he said.

Any funding raised through a wheel tax is required by law to be used for transportation-related purposes, which Kabat said was a point in its favor compared with raising property taxes to cover costs.

“Every dollar that we raise has to be spent on the streets, on transportation,” Kabat said.

The proposal, which would affect all automobiles and trucks registered in Wisconsin and kept in the city of La Crosse, comes after the city made efforts internally to address its infrastructure, the mayor said.

“We tapped into our excess reserve funds the last several years to add more miles of street repairs, and so that’s kind of a one-time deal,” Kabat said.

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The city has allocated about $7 million in the past few years to street repairs, which allowed it to go from fixing 3 to 4 miles of roads to 8 miles in 2018.

The mayor stressed that the city has also made changes within the street department, purchasing different equipment and other efforts.

“We squeezed out a bit more efficiency with our current staff,” Kabat said. “We don’t have a lot of other options to do this.”

It’s far from a done deal, but the mayor said the question of whether to institute a wheel tax was an important one.

“I really believe we should have the conversation, and having it during our budget process makes sense,” Kabat said.

The mayor has scheduled public hearings for 5 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and 30 in the La Crosse Common Council chambers at La Crosse City Hall in addition to the public hearing to be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 4 during the regular Judiciary and Administration Committee meeting.

Kabat built in a five-year sunset clause to allow a future city council and mayor to revisit whether it’s necessary, needs changing or is still supported, and to adjust to any changes in state requirements.

“I’m anticipating that the state is going to weigh in. They’re going to provide some direction to the locals because that’s been their practice to dictate how locals go about our business,” Kabat said.

The mayor said he would not support La Crosse County’s proposed $56 wheel tax, which will be up for a vote in a referendum in November, saying he would expect those funds to be focused on roads outside the city.

“I don’t see city of La Crosse getting very much benefit at all from the $56 wheel tax the county is considering,” Kabat said.

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Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.


City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(24) comments

Grand Dad's Bluff

Here we go with the fees and personal property taxes.....dangerous given WI high prop tax rates...New Jersey here we come.

let it go

What would qualify as a "vehicle"? Would a bike, skate board, roller skates and blades qualify? Would the wheels on the garbage cans you chose qualify? No to tax.


I do like how some of you no matter what the story is try to spin it into Republicans vs Democrats. You are what is wrong with this country. This has nothing to do with this a-hole adding a new outrageous tax. Sorry about your political views but they have brain washed you.


why would cars have to pay a wheel tax when its the large volumes of semis and large truck traffic that pulverize the roads everyday? little o'l cars dont do anything compared to that.


You hit the nail on the head. They are driving on roads/ streets not designed to carry their weight/loads. Read on the State site that big trucks with heavy loads are exempt from any wheel tax. What the heck??? Why???


Does the city and county have to pay the $25 bucks on every one of their police cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses? What about the tax exempts? His honor just wants to much, time to hire a city manager.


When the republicans wanted voters to provide a FREE ID all he// broke lose. How are the poor, fixed income people and low income people going to get a FREE ID? If liberals weren’t such hypocrites they’d be all over the mayor because this fee will definitely hurt people. I guess it matters who proposes what.


Long time residents will have to admit that the transformation of La Crosse from twenty years ago is amazing. Remember the "beautiful" Cargill silos on the river? Someone needs to do a before and after photo montage of certain areas. Sure the city has wasted money, that's what governments do. I have to admit that I like the results in most instances.

random annoying bozo

another regressive tax that adversely affects those on the lower income level....what with property taxes, rain taxes, fees, fines, permit costs etc.. when will somebody ask 'where does all that money go'? how much has been spent of streetscaping over the years? on park improvements? on tifs? and coming soon, on a pool that will be used maybe 3 months, at best, out of the year. and yet another civic center project, in a seemingly never ending line of civic center projects over the years, that will cost tens of millions? when will taxpayers finally say enough is enough, we don't have anymore to give??


I have no problem with this proposal and would gladly pay 25 beans to get the roads fixed. It is funny how the state jacked over 4 billion into FOXCONN and people complain about 25 dollars.

Buggs Raplin

I'm encouraged to read the comments in opposition to spending so much money on the La Crosse Center. We will always have convention business because of the downtown hotels, the downtown restaurants, and the bars. Even the propaganda media is warning of serious economic times ahead. Let's get our priorities in order. Leave the statues where they are, and fix our city streets,


Stop the wasteful spending on the LaX Center. Use that money to fix the roads. No new taxes!


Sell municipal boat harbor, Mayor kabass and crook Carolyn . That is roughly a million dollars. It shouldn’t have been even stolen/highjacked by the city in the first place, their were private investors already in place.

What happened with that audit of the parks department. Maybe we can find out how the mayor and Carolyn have used the parks department as there slush fund because parks department is not on the same accounting software as the rest of city hall.

If this wheel tax goes into affect, this city will be a joke. How about no new hires at city hall and no pay increases for 2 years. That’s a start. Don’t move the Indian in Riverside on our dime, fire Gary Thurk’s business, have someone already at city hall to do that as well, like they used to, i.e. department heads, make all department heads live in the city of lacrosse not in Holmen in a 300k house, i.e. Dave Reinhart that pays Holmen property tax. Fire Phil,I ate too many cheeseburgers, Addis. Why even have a city attorney if he has to ask Phil or get Phil to do his work.
Don’t tell me that this is not possible every private sector business/owner in this city works all hours and wears multiple heads.
This mayor must think that everyone here has money hidden.

Rick Czeczok

Yet another tax or fee. When will this garbage stop? Stop wasting money moving statues and put it towards the roads. Stop all the park updates and put it towards the roads. Stop the building of a new center and put it towards the roads. Infrastructure needs to come before all of these. The base of a society is it's infrastructure, not a bunch of want, but don't need karap!!!! Put this up for referendum and majority will vote no, don't put it up for referendum and we vote you out.

Grand Dad's Bluff

Wheel tax makes sense to me, those who wear the roads out, pay for the repairs.


So what happened to the tax $ from the "temporary" 1/2% sales tax?


How much did they pay that guy to paint that garbage on the parking ramps? I totally agree with the first comment, this city spends a lot on stupid stuff. Maybe instead of bike lanes everywhere they should have been fixing the roads.

LaCrosse Lady

Ok - what if the vehicle does not belong to the property owner?


Kabat is delusional and grasping at straws to cover up the fact that spending in La Crosse is out of control. He will drive more residents out. If between him and Tara starting wheel taxes, which adds $81 per vehicle, think this is a good idea, it’s time to change leadership ASAP. These taxes will impact fixed and lower income groups the worst. The answer is simple, stop spending money on wants, you were elected to be stewards of taxpayer funds, not the rubber stamp for the squeaky wheel groups and your personal agendas.

Whatup Dog

If you think it will actually "sunset" after 5 years, I have a bridge to sell you.


Choice of two bridges or were you planning on keeping one?

Whatup Dog

For you? Since you asked nicely, I will let them both go. 2 for the price of 3


Is it just amazing the city has $30000.00 to buy tvs for the parking ramps but no money to fix the roads!! I just can’t understand the thinking of the morons that are attempting to run this town. I for one say no more money no more taxes until the spend happy fools at city hall start to manage the waste in this towns budget!!! Every one of these spend happy fools that vote for or back all this wasteful spending must be voted out of office!!!! We as tax payers must demand these spend happy fools are responsible with our tax dollars and curb all the wasteful spending or vote them out!!!!!!!


Yup, one cant walk across third street without danger of breaking an ankle in the crappy pavement, but look up and there is a $6,000 high def TV screen welcoming you to downtown la crosse. unbelievable.

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