No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Here come the trains and taxes

(H/T – Charlie Sykes, who properly invokes the BOHICA acronym)

Greg Bump at WisPolitics stayed up late so I wouldn’t have to, and he documented the extent of the screwing of the taxpayers regarding transit by the Democrats of the Joint Finance Committe last night and early this morning:

  • The requirement to get Milwaukee County Board and residential approval to build a light rail system in Milwaukee got stripped out on a party-line 12-4 vote. A related resolution to require a countywide referendum for any entity wanting a light rail system fell on a party-line 4-12 vote.
  • An unelected Milwaukee County Regional Transit Tax Authority, with 2 members selected by the county board chair, 2 by the Milwaukee mayor, and a member selected by the governor (and notably, no members appointed by the Milwaukee County Executive, a theme that selectively repeats itself), will get the authority to create a brand-new 1% sales tax, with 15% going to the city of Milwaukee, and the money going to transit, parks, cultural, and emergecy medical service programs. That went through on an 11-5 vote, with Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) joining the Republicans.

    Do note the 15% that goes to the city. The current Milwaukee County Transit System has expressed its desire to not operate any light-rail system, and specifically the “Downtown Collector” that got rammed into the federal budget. The city is likely to use that 15% to fund the starter light-rail system.

    Also note the entites that get to appoint the unelected taxing authority. Not only is there no guarantee that a suburban resident will get a seat as no suburban municpality has appointment power, but the executive of Milwaukee County, unlike the executives of the city of Milwaukee and the state, gets no voice.

  • A separate unelected KRM board to run the bigger choo-choo, funded by an indexed-for-inflation $16-per-transaction car rental fee (an 800% increase in the current $2 fee going to the existing Regional Transit Authority) applied to Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha Counties, with 2 members selected by the Milwaukee County board chair (and 0 by the Milwaukee County Executive), 1 member selected by the Racine County board chair (and 0 by the Racine County Executive), 1 member selected by the Kenosha County Executive (and 0 by the Kenosha County board chair), 2 members selected by Milwaukee’s mayor, and 1 member each selected by Racine’s mayor, Kenosha’s mayor and the governor. That passed on a party-line 12-4 vote.

    An attempt to exempt the portion of Racine County west of I-94 (a minimum of 7 miles west of the KRM line, with no transit service between the area west of I-94 and any of the KRM stations) fell on a party-line 4-12 vote. (Revisions/extensions, 11:45 am 5/1/2009) This area, along with the part of Kenosha County west of I-94, was exempted from governor Jim Doyle’s RTA reorganization proposal.

    I wonder why Kenosha County’s executive gets appointment authority, while Racine County’s executive and Milwaukee County’s executive doesn’t. Indeed, that was reinforced on a party-line 4-12 rejection of an amendment to make the Racine and Milwaukee County executives equal to Kenosha County’s. I wonder if there’s a court case to be made here.

    Again, note that there is no guarantee that there will be anybody from a municipality other than Milwaukee, Racine or Kenosha on this unelected taxing authority.

  • Dane County also gets its own unelected Regional Transit Authority. While that also passed on a party-line vote, there are a couple of key differences between it and the Milwaukee County version that really makes my blood boil over the fisting I’m taking in the ‘burbs:
    • The funding sales tax, which would be 0.5%, would require a non-binding referendum.
    • The appointment authorities are vastly different:
      • Two Madison metro residents appointed by the county executive and approved by the county board
      • Two members appointed by Madison’s mayor and approved by Madison’s Common Council
      • One member each from Fitchburg, Middleton and Sun Prairie, appointed by the respective mayors and approved by the respective Common Councils
      • One member appointed by the governor
      • One village member appointed by the Dane County Cities and Villages Association

    You notice anything different between the makeup of the Dane County RTA and the Milwaukee County RTA and the KRM board, like the guaranteed presence of suburban members, or the requirement of approval of the legislative branches, or a role for the county executive?

I’m not exactly hopeful my state Senator, Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) will either remember that he once wanted to get rid of sales taxes entirely or kill the RTAs. He is far more afraid of the East Side/UWM liberals than he is of outraged taxpayers. After all, someone who had to drop out because he committed vote fraud got 26% of the vote in the 2006 Democrat primary.

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