Voters to decide on Swiss motorway fee hike

Voters to decide on Swiss motorway fee hike
Swiss motorway "vignette": a planned increase in the price is far from settled. Photo:
Swiss citizens will finally decide in a national vote whether a major increase in the annual motorway fee for vehicles will proceed as planned in 2015.

The upper and lower houses of parliament agreed in March to boost the price of the “vignette” to 100 francs from 40 francs in a move backed by the government to help fund the country’s road transport network.

But a referendum committee announced that it had already collected 70,000 signatures to put the issue to a vote, SonntagsBlick reported on Sunday.

That’s 20,000 votes more than the minimum necessary to force a national referendum.

“We will continue actively the collection (of signatures) until the cut-off date” set for July 13th 2013, Nadja Pieren, a Swiss People’s Party (SVP) MP from Bern who is involved in the campaign, told the SDA news agency.

The referendum committee wants to send a “signal” against what it considers an “abusive” increase by the state for highway fees.

The government and the senate (council of states) have long agreed to the need for a 100-franc motorway fee.

The lower house of parliament had argued for a 70-franc vignette before finally agreeing to the higher figure.

The proposal would allow for a 40-franc vignette for tourists that would be valid for two months.

Transport Minister Doris Leuthard has defended the 150 percent increase in the road tax as necessary to help pay for a number of planned motoway projects.

Opposition to the hike has emerged, however, from both the left and the right.

The right-wing SVP is concerned that a portion of revenue from the vignettes would be siphoned off to fund passenger rail projects.

Green party members have argued, meanwhile, that the road tax would be used to build more motorways, which it opposes, instead of maintaining the current network.

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