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Monday, July 13, 2009

Doyle to offer bus funding plan soon

From an article by Patrick Marley and Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Gov. Jim Doyle will offer a plan to fund buses in Milwaukee County and elsewhere in a couple of weeks, according to legislators who have met with his staff.

Legislative Democrats said Doyle aides told them he would unveil a plan to address regional transit soon - but Doyle's team didn't provide any details. The meetings occurred Thursday.

The talks follow the collapse of efforts to forge a deal in the 2009-'11 budget.

Doyle had proposed a single regional transit authority for southeastern Wisconsin, wielding power over both public buses and proposed commuter trains, funded by a 0.5% sales tax in Milwaukee, Kenosha and western Racine counties. That followed the recommendations of the interim Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Transit Authority.

But when the budget came out of the Legislature, lawmakers had limited the three-county RTA to overseeing the proposed KRM train line and had changed its funding to an $18 rental car fee, up from $2 a car. They also sought a Milwaukee County transit authority that would levy a 0.65% sales tax, with 0.5% for the financially troubled Milwaukee County bus system and 0.15% for municipal public safety agencies.

Doyle vetoed the Milwaukee County authority but kept the three-county body, saying he wanted to see a truly regional transit solution. That veto enraged Doyle's fellow Democrats, who control the Legislature and who retaliated by cutting $35,000 for a KRM study. Also furious was Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, who vowed to appoint himself to the new RTA board and vote against KRM consistently.

Milwaukee Democrats support the rail line but said they would prevent it from advancing until the county bus system was improved.

"My bottom line is I'm not going to entertain further KRM discussion until we fix Milwaukee's transit system," Rep. Tamara Grigsby (D-Milwaukee) said.

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