FOX47 NEWS - Regional Transit Authority

Jeff Angileri
Jun 16, 2009, 10:38 PM

The future of regional transportation could end up in the hands of Wisconsin voters.

Part of the 2009 state budget proposal would allow communities to create a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) that could raise taxes to pay for things like bus service and light rail.

Supporters of the RTA say it could cut gas consumption and ease traffic, and build better roads, extensive bus systems, even new commuter rail lines.

Those regions include Dane County, the Fox Cities, the Chippewa Valley and Milwaukee county.

The new rules would allow these metro areas to go to referendum, and let voters choose to raise the local sales tax to fund improvements.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz says this legislation is a long time coming.

This has been a dream of ours for a couple of decades or more and it's close to happening. I know they're gonna do it in the [State] Senate, he said. This will be a tremendous step forward not just for the economy but for the environment.

Cieslewicz hopes to put the matter before Madison voters next year.

Under the proposed law, communities could raise their sales tax up to a half cent. Milwaukee would be allowed to raise taxes .65 cents.

Appleton Mayor Tim Hanna said that's a high estimate. He says it would only cost a tenth of a cent to create regional transit in the Fox Cities.

Critics say even that's too much. They say the RTA is just another tax hike, and they question the need for such a system, based on the cost.

If the new law is passed, no state budget money would be used to fund the regional transit authorities.

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