Proposed Higher State Fees Another Form of Taxation?

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Governor Jim Doyle says his budget would fix the state deficit without raising taxes ... but it's got millions of dollars in fee increases for such things as visiting state parks, registering vehicles and renting cars.

Doyle spokesman Dan Leistikow says the fee increases are designed to cover specific costs, not to balance the budget. For example, the proposed increase in hunting license fees would go to hire new game wardens.

Republican state Senator Neal Kedzie of Elkhorn doesn't buy the rationale. He's chairman of the Senate's Natural Resources Committee ... and he says fees are taxes by another name.

But Bill Smith, who serves as deputy natural resources secretary, says his agency's fee increases are aimed at asking people to pay for the services they get.

That includes a plan to charge developers for all the permits they need for projects along waterways and wetlands. They now pay for the most expensive permit and the rest are free.

The budget also would have the state go after sales tax revenue that often isn't paid for on-line or mail-order purchases.