Maureen Connors Badding arrived in Wauwatosa 22 years ago via Buffalo and Phoenix. She's a freelance writer and habitual volunteer who enjoys book clubs, travel, entertaining and cheering for her daughter's swim team.
With gas pump prices at an all-time high, you might think that even the most diehard road and car enthusiasts might back off of their anti-mass transit positions. But no, here is the latest news I received from Kerry Thomas of Transit Now:
"In a move that turns their backs on business, community and elected leaders from across the state, the legislative Joint Finance Committee (JFC) passed a surprise motion to amend the State budget to include elimination of all Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) in Wisconsin. Included are the 2-year old Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SERTA.) and Dane County RTA... The motion was offered by co-chair Representative Vos and passed on a 12-4 party line vote. The committee also voted to eliminate the capital bonding program for SE Wisconsin.
Neither the RTAs or the capital bonding program have any impact on reducing the budget deficit. None of the RTAs has implemented a funding source.
What does mean for SE Wisconsin?
- This motion would remove the ability of communities tap to collaborate on finding solutions to strengthen fragile transit systems that are essential part of the transportation system, keeping people connected to jobs and school and businesses to the workers they rely on. Gone, also, will be the ability to garner additional federal dollars… and to ease property taxes.
- The RTA repeal motion will take KRM (Kenosha Racine Milwaukee) Commuter Rail off the table, along with the job connections, tourism, economic development, and government revenues it would spur by linking 34 cities in the Milwaukee – Chicago economic corridor. After over a decade of study and consensus building, the project is currently awaiting permission from the FTA to enter preliminary engineering.
- In a few weeks the JFC will vote on the total budget and then it will move to the Assembly, and the Senate for amendments and voting. The Governor will sign the budget in May or June.
At the recent state budget hearings held last month, not a single person showed up to testify and request that RTAs be repealed in the budget. Many people passionately urged improved transit and saving RTAs.
It was just over one year ago that hundreds of people from all walks of life packed the same committee hearing room to testify to the Assembly Committee on Transportation about why RTAs were so important to their cities, their businesses, their families, and to the state of WI. Not one person testified in opposition to RTAs in 7 hours of testimony.
What this motion does NOT do:
- Does NOT help fix the state budget deficit. RTAs have no fiscal impact on the state budget. No RTA in Wisconsin has collected any revenues or implemented any fees or taxes.
- Does NOT create jobs. Businesses will have less access to workforce as transit funds are depleted and services are cut.
- Does NOT reduce government expenses. Investments in transit keep people working, spur job growth, and keep seniors and people with disabilities living independently.
- It does not keep policy out of the budget as Governor Scott Walker promised, and as Robin Vos himself insisted on for any RTA legislation."
If you think that mass transit has a role in keeping Southeastern WIsconsin greener and more attractive to employers, please write to your legislators and ask them to support Regional Transit Authorities and mass transit.
Surely there are many of you who voted Republican in the last election because of the jobs they promised, not because of policy-changing shenanigans like this. It is time for you to speak up.