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Walker Misses The Bus To Improvement

Posted by Chris Liebenthal on January 25, 2010

From Milwaukee County First:

State Senators Lena Taylor and John Lehman have fleshed out the new bill that would help save Milwaukee County’s transit system and lay the groundwork for a future RTA.  To top it all off, it would give Milwaukee County tax payers some much needed relief in their property taxes.  Some of the main highlights include:

The Regional Transit & Jobs Investment Act includes the following structural principles:

1.It creates a two-level approach to regional transit. The bill allows Milwaukee to move ahead immediately to improve its bus system and phases in the Kenosha and Racine areas to create an independent governing body over the coming years.
◦At first, the local interim RTAs (IRTA) that exist would continue to make local transit decisions for their areas, including funding, while the umbrella RTA, Southeastern RTA (SERTA) will continue KRM planning efforts already underway. Over time, they would form one RTA, with representation throughout the Southeast region.

2. Funding for the Milwaukee sub-RTA will come from a transit dedicated 0.5% sales tax, which has already been approved by referendum in that county.

3. IRTAs created in Racine and Kenosha counties may be funded through a menu of currently authorized local revenue. New transit revenue sources not authorized under current law are subject to referenda requirements.

4. The maximum amount of revenue commitment of the RTA will be based on local transit needs, including funding necessary to construct and operate the KRM commuter rail link.

5. A pool of funding will be created to provide an incentive for local governments to create IRTAs. The incentive pool will initially consist of rental car fee revenue, but, beginning in 2011 will also include funding from the transportation fund.

6. The Regional Transit & Jobs Investment Act is crafted with the intention of strengthening the KRM commuter rail project New Starts grant application with Federal Transit Administration.

7. The construction of the KRM commuter rail line will not come at the expense of local transit service. Revenue from local revenue sources cannot be used on KRM construction or operation if that use of revenue will result in service reductions for local transit. In addition, if local revenue from one area is used to fund KRM, local revenue from all areas must be used to fund KRM.

So, it would be a dedicated funding source to help restore and maintain MCTS, while giving tax payers some much needed relief.  Furthermore, it would ensure that money collected in Milwaukee County would stay in Milwaukee County and not go to fund someone else’s agenda.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same common sense that we do.  Nor do they have an investment in Milwaukee County like those of us that live here, work here and play here, and not just see it as something to be used and discarded for their own selfish purposes.

Scott Walker unfortunately shows his true colors again, and puts his own political posturing before the best interest of the County that he is supposed to be leading.  Walker has already stated that he would veto and otherwise obstruct this important funding source anyway possible to further his own political agenda, which is namely to try to get into the governor’s office, regardless of the damage he causes to anyone else on the way.


Walker said he has been meeting with other local government executives for several years to find greater regional cooperation on transit issues. He also has long advocated taking a portion of the state sales tax collected on automobile sales and dedicating it to transit. He also proposed in his State of the County address this month privatizing some services at the airport and using the savings to buy down county debt service. The money saved from that annual payment on the debt could then be used for transit without adding any additional burden to the property tax rolls.

He also said he continues to oppose an additional sales tax to pay for transit and said current bus lines are not in danger of being cut next year as Barca insists.

I really wonder what planet Walker was on for the past few years.

Walker claims to have been working on improving transit for years, but for those years that he claims to have been working on fixing it, our transit system has steadily crumbled.  He has done such a poor job in this area, that while every other large metropolitan area was  seeing a boom in ridership due to the record-breaking high gas prices, MCTS was actually losing riders.

To get a better idea of how bad Walker has done in this area, Public Policy Forum produced an award-winning report on the peril that our transit system.

And what good is Walker’s advocating for the state to send their sales tax money to Milwaukee County when it was made clear to him years ago that this was not going to ever happen.  To keep pursuing something that is not realistic or attainable is not a sign of good leadership, but rather, a simple denial of reality.

And the privatization has proved to be quite the fiasco at the Midway Airport in Illinois.  For Walker to seriously propose this as a solution to the problem he created is utterly irresponsible and shows that he is not concerned with the betterment of Milwaukee County, but only with currying favor with those that might support his candidacy.

The people of Milwaukee County spoke well over a year ago and we said that we want our transit and parks systems saved, and that the most viable, realistic and sustainable plan was through dedicated funding via a sales tax.  The state legislature has finally heard us.  Governor Doyle has finally heard us.  It is time for Scott Walker to take out his ideological earplugs and start listening to us, or he will find himself left behind, since he refused to get on the bus to a better tomorrow.


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