By Doug Hissom Special to Published May 02, 2008 at 5:06 AM

In a move sure to rattle the cages of the anti-tax crowd, three Milwaukee aldermen are proposing a $20 annual fee to register all vehicles in the City of Milwaukee.

Ald. Bob Bauman, Bob Donovan and Willie Wade want the resulting revenue to be earmarked for transportation projects.

According to the plan, "Revenues collected under this section shall be deposited in an enterprise fund to be called the transportation fund. Revenues in the fund shall be used only to defray city costs for transportation related purposes including but not limited to costs related to the design, construction, operation of streets, alleys, bridges, public way lighting, traffic signs and signals, traffic calming installations, and which may also include special assessments."

A wheel tax has been floated in some form or another nearly every year in the Common Council, usually around budget time.

The Council's Public Works Committee will hear the plan next week.

Age Rage: If a proposal in front of the Common Council goes any further, just being 21 years old might not cut it for people to get into taverns.

A plan by Ald. Jim Bohl, chair of the Licenses Committee, would allow taverns to set their own age limits on patrons. The ordinance allows Class "B" tavern license holders, in the interest of the public good and keeping the general peace, to exercise a predetermined age restriction which must be posted at the establishment.

A Table full of Talk: They couldn't pass the controversial bills separately so why not just throw everything on the table? That seems to be the consensus among state legislative leaders.

Faced with what looks like hours of debate on a budget repair bill and the Great Lakes Compact, Senate Majority leader Russ Decker and Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch are considering merging the two into a single bill.

That doesn't sit well with GOP faithful in the Capitol, however; at least three have sent letters of protest to the leaders.

Combining the bills will force lawmakers to make a difficult choice and perhaps swallow some integrity. For example, a legislator who doesn't like the Great Lakes Compact may still have to vote for it because the budget repair portion of the bill does not raise taxes or raid the transportation fund.

"There is no policy or political basis that would justify an agreement to merge the two issues," writes state Rep. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) to Huebsch. "If the two issues are merged, you would be intentionally giving the governor the power to rewrite the compact agreement and possibly provide expanded powers to the Department of Natural Resources."

Nass also suggests that Decker is playing politics with the bill in order to help the election efforts of state Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, who takes on Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling in the fall.

"A merged bill would permit Decker to put a certain GOP state senator in suburban Milwaukee into a possible no-win situation, pitting the Great Lakes Compact provisions against the potential fiscally disastrous budget repair provisions."

Nass wants a caucus on the idea.

On the Senate side, the two leaders got two cents from Sens. Mike Ellis (R-Neenah) and Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), who want the idea dropped.

"To force legislators to vote in support of a proposal they oppose because it is combined with a proposal they support is unfair to the legislators and to their constituents," they wrote.

Flying Low for the Emu: Don't miss getting in on the action during Emu Week in Wisconsin. From May 3 to 11 the governor has asked the fair citizens of our state to think about that feathered friend. The 5-ft.-tall birds are raised for lean red meat, leather, oil and feathers. The Wisconsin Emu Association promises plenty of emu outreach throughout the state.

Sewer Suit: You just can't quit a job, the Michels Corporation is finding out.

The Village of Elm Grove is suing Michels, a Michels subsidy and its bonding company for breach of contract after Michels quit putting together a $13.1 million flood management program.

Michels -- whose leading corporate exec is Tim Michels, who ran against U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in 2004 -- was contracted by the Village in 2005 to construct a 2,125-ft. storm sewer of which 890 ft. was to be tunneled through the middle of downtown Elm Grove.

The contract called for the project to be substantially completed by Aug. 1, 2006, but on April 26, after five days of tunneling, Michels left the job site claiming it was unable to continue. The company did not return to the site for 275 days. The downtown area of the village was disrupted by an additional year of construction, causing further hardship on area businesses and residents.

Back in the Ring: It's Kagen-Gard II, coming to polling places near Green Bay in November.

Former Speaker John Gard, who embarrassingly lost his previous bid for Congress against Steve Kagen in 2006, is going at it again. Saying Kagen represents the "extreme liberal leadership 95 percent of the time," the Republican fired his first official shot across the Kagen bow this week.

The former Assembly speaker was expected to easily take the seat, which represents northeastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley. He's going to embrace a strategy that firmly embraces a no tax increase mantra.

Pundits are bracing for a negative slugfest and it didn't take too long for the Democratic Party to jump into the ring on behalf of Kagen. The Dems promptly sent out a release entitled "Eight reasons John Gard is still too extreme for northeastern Wisconsin."

Among them?

  • In Madison, Gard voted to give himself a pay raise, but when it came to increasing the minimum wage, he voted no.
  • Gard voted to raise taxes five times.
  • Professional politician John Gard voted to raise the state gas tax and add to the burden on every Wisconsin driver. He's taken more than $42,000 from oil and gas companies while running for Congress.
  • Gard has been fined for accepting illegal campaign contributions, was caught padding his expense account and when anti-corruption legislation came up, he fought to kill it.
Doug Hissom Special to
Doug Hissom has covered local and state politics for 20 years. Over the course of that time he was publisher, editor, news editor, managing editor and senior writer at the Shepherd Express weekly paper in Milwaukee. He also covered education and environmental issues extensively. He ran the UWM Post in the mid-1980s, winning a Society of Professional Journalists award as best non-daily college newspaper.

An avid outdoors person he regularly takes extended paddling trips in the wilderness, preferring the hinterlands of northern Canada and Alaska. After a bet with a bunch of sailors, he paddled across Lake Michigan in a canoe.

He lives in Bay View.