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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bill would make way for area transit authority

From an article by Richard Mial in the La Crosse Tribune:

Should local communities have the right to charge an additional half-percent sales tax to operate mass transit systems?

That's an issue being considered in the Legislature in the last month before it ends its session for the year.

State Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said she is in favor of "empowering" local communities to take steps to shore up transit funding.

She has introduced a bill authorizing La Crosse County to have a regional transit authority - an additional level of government that could impose taxes for mass transit.

Already, the Chippewa Valley, Dane County and Chequamegon Bay communities along Lake Superior have such an authority, although none have enacted it yet.

If passed by the state, it wouldn't happen automatically. The county board first must pass a law and then voters must approve a referendum.

Shilling and other local representatives spoke at a public hearing Thursday on several provisions to allow specific communities to enact RTAs.

While Shilling's Assembly Bill 791 would give such authority to La Crosse County, legislators have suggested it makes more sense to enact a law that would allow any county to create a transit authority if its citizens vote to do so.

Shilling told the committee that, "An RTA would reduce costs for users, provide residents and visitors with additional transit options, reduce road congestion for drivers, ease parking needs and decrease energy consumption and air pollution."

Dick Granchalek, president of the Greater La Crosse Area Chamber of Commerce, said mass transit can be good for business.

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