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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Transit tax plan revived

From a story by Steve Schultze in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A Milwaukee County Board committee Wednesday revived the idea of levying a half-cent local sales tax to pay for transit, after hearing appeals from major civic and business groups.

The board’s transportation committee voted 4-3 in favor of holding an advisory referendum on the sales tax idea on the November ballot. The tax would be dedicated to transit and generate an estimated $65 million a year. That’s nearly triple what the county is spending in property taxes on transit.

The additional money could help pay for new buses, enhanced bus security, reduced fares and other improvements, said Supervisor Patricia Jursik, the author of the transit sales tax measure.

Under the language of the referendum question, the county tax levy would be reduced by the same amount the new sales tax would raise — a vital safeguard needed to win public support, county supervisors said.

Jursik described the issue as switching transit funding from the property tax, where Wisconsin ranks high, to the sales tax, where the state is comparatively low. Visitors to Milwaukee also would help fund local transit through a transit sales tax, she said.

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