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Friday, May 1, 2009

Regional transit authority for Milwaukee gets state budget panel OK

From a story by Scott Bauer in The Capital Times:

The Legislature's budget committee on Friday approved a plan to use a mixture of higher sales taxes and car rental fees to pay for high-speed rail and other transit projects in the two most populated parts of the state.

The measures, part of the two-year state budget, must pass the full Legislature and be approved by Doyle before it becomes law.

In Dane County, a half-cent sales tax could be imposed to pay for commuter rail and other transit projects.

In Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties up to $16 could be charged on car rentals to pay for a commuter rail line connecting the three southeastern Wisconsin cities. A new board created to oversee the rail line's construction also could levy $50 million in bonds to help pay for it. The project has been discussed for years but always stalled over ways to pay for it.

Also, Milwaukee County would be allowed to impose a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a countywide regional transit authority. The $132 million raised each year would pay for transit, parks, cultural and emergency medical services. Fifteen percent would go to the city of Milwaukee.

On a 9-7 vote, the committee voted against Gov. Jim Doyle's proposal to create a regional transit authority in the Fox Cities to help pay for the existing regional bus system using up to half a cent sales tax. . . .

Commuter rail supporters include environmentalists, business groups, organized labor and local governments, and organizations representing the disabled and elderly. They supported commuter rail to ease congestion, create jobs and spur economic development.

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