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Toepel, M. G.; Kuehn, Hazel L. (ed.) / The Wisconsin Blue Book, 1954

Financing Wisconsin state government,   pp. [69]-182 PDF (34.8 MB)

Page 70

broadening of people's horizons, the increasing complexity of living
as more and more people live closer and closer together, are but
a few of the phenomena which make for more government.
  Fifty years ago the motor vehicle was just appearing on local
streets. There was no complex vehicle licensing program, driver's
license requirements, state traffic patrol, financial responsibility
system, network of hard surface roads requiring state funds to
administer and no system of collecting revenues to pay such costs.
In 1906, the first year of motor vehicle licensing $2,161 was col-
lected. In 1952-53, less than 50 years later, over 67 million dollars
was collected from motor vehicles and gasoline, over 26 millions of
which came from the same source as the $2,161 came from in
1906. The revenues increased by more than 10,000 times in less
than 50 years. But during that time more than a million vehicles
appeared on the roads to be licensed, many more than a million
drivers had to be authorized to drive, a state traffic patrol of 70
men was created, an intricate system of making certain that people
who were traffic risks were financially responsible was developed,
a program of driver education was established and a network of
more than 90,000 miles of road was laid out. Today more than
400 people are required to carry out the sheer mechanics of licensing
vehicles and drivers.
  The foregoing illustrates the scope of one relatively new function
of government. If we break it down we find that it entails the
salaries and travel expenses of officials and employes; typewriters,
adding machines, calculators, desks and other equipment; stationery,
stamps, mimeograph paper, carbon paper, paper clips and scores
of other items of supplies; a building in which to house the staff;
and literally scores of other items of expense required if the task is
to be performed effectively.
  In this case the revenues far exceed the expenditures because
this function involves the collection of revenue as well as the
regulation of the use of motor vehicles. There are many other
functions, however, in which the direct revenues are far less than
are the expenditures. The operation of our public welfare program
is an example. We do not provide care for our unfortunates as a
money-making scheme. This program incurs substantial costs which
must be borne by the public rather than from specific revenues
resulting directly from the service, but even this agency has revenues
as well as expenditures.
  In 1903 the state and its subdivisions levied a total of $23,334,770
in taxes of which $20,754,277 came from the general property
tax. Fifty years later in 1953 the state and its subdivisions levied
$536,352,462 in taxes of which $268,439,321 came from the general
property tax. While the total taxes collected increased more than
20 times in 50 years, the general property tax declined from 85
per cent of the total tax revenue to 50 per cent although it, too,
increased tremendously in actual amount. In 1903 several of the

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