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RTA madness expanded, explained – and revised

by @ 16:55 on June 12, 2009. Filed under Choo-choos, Politics - Wisconsin, Taxes.

Revisions/extensions (4:55 pm 6/12/2009) - I’ve moved this post (originally published 4:28 pm 6/11/2009) to the top. The summary from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau is in (pages 38-42), and things get worse. I’ll clear up the original post a bit, and explain below.

WisPolitics’ Budget Blog reports that a rather sweeping amendment to the various Regional “Transit” Authorities contained in the Daughter-of-Necrobudget has been made by Assembly Democrats:

  • The Fox River Valley RTA in the governor’s budget has been restored, including the 0.5% sales tax.
  • The Chippewa River Valley also gets an RTA, with an unknown funding source a 0.5% sales tax.
  • In a reversal of the usual car-taxes-to-transit subsidy, Dane County, and only Dane County, will get to use its 0.5% RTA sales tax to repair roads.
  • At the insistence of the Federal Transit Administration, the KRM taxing authority’s responsibility is expanded to include Racine’s and Kenosha’s bus systems, paid for by a $1 car-rental tax in the cities of Racine and Kenosha (which makes the total KRM RTA car-rental tax initially $17 in Racine and Kenosha; it is unknown whether, like the larger car-rental tax, this will be auto-indexed for inflation) an additional $2 car-rental tax in Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha Counties, raising the total tax to $18 per car-rental transaction. Of note, the bus systems only get the tax money if the cities raise funding of their transit systems (i.e. raise local taxes) by that amount.
  • The new sales tax the Milwaukee County Board gets to levy for their Regional Transit Taxing Authority drops from 1.00% to 0.65%, but instead of also funding parks, cultural, and emergency medical services programs, 23% of the new tax (or 0.15% on the bottom line) will go to “offsetting police and fire costs in communities in Milwaukee County”. If you believe that will go anyplace other than the City of Milwaukee, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

So, why all the changes, and why now? Apparently, despite being close to $2,000,000,000,000 in the red for the 2010 budget, the federal government has enough money to reward those who grow government and raise taxes by creating RTAs by September.

Yes, that’s right. Much like the demand by the Assembly Democrats to the cities of Racine and Kenosha to raise local taxes so that they get a pittance of an amount from a state-imposed tax increase, the federal government is demanding local tax increases and increased amounts and levels of government to get a pittance of an amount from the already-overtapped federal Treasury.

Begin expanded explanation. Regarding the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (the rebadged KRM Authority):

  • The car-rental tax is increased from $16 per transaction to $18 per transaction, indexed for inflation.
  • The city of Racine’s bus system would get $1 of that, and the city of Kenosha’s bus system would get $1 of that, only if each city “generates new funds to match the vehicle rental tax revenues”.
  • No other community in either Racine County or Kenosha County gets a stop on the choo-choo unless they provide a “sustainable funding mechanism” of an unspecified amount to contribute to their county seat’s existing bus system.
  • Instead of empowering the Milwaukee County and Racine County executives to make appointments, it depowers the Kenosha County Executive and gives the Kenosha County board chair that seat’s appointment power.
  • The SERTA will become the sole clearinghouse of grants made to the FTA by all three counties.
  • Pedro Colon gets a KRM stop at Lincoln Ave. and Bay St. to go along with his previously-porked-in National Ave. stop.

Regarding the Milwaukee Transit Taxing Authority:

  • Delete the “Regional” from the name.
  • The 0.15% sales tax imposed for “police and fire protection” will be split based on the number of officers and firefighters (i.e. almost all the money’s going to the city).
  • Specify that the MTA would be a tax-exempt entity.
  • No word on whether the 15% requirement to the city of Milwaukee to run the mini-choo-choo is still in.

Regarding the Chippewa Valley Transit Authority:

  • Eau Claire County would be first, pending both county board and voter approval.
  • Any municipality that has any presence in Eau Claire County would automatically be part of this.
  • If it is established, Chippewa County could join the same way (county board and voter approval), with the decision to either join or leave binding on all municipalities in Chippewa County.
  • Membership, with 4-year terms, would be set by each member county, with no more than 17 total and including three members appointed by each county member’s county executive and approved by the county board (one of which would be an initial 2-year term, then 4-year terms after that), a member appointed by the mayor of each member county’s largest city and approved by that city’s common council (an initial 2-year term, then 4-year terms after that) and a member appointed by the governor.
  • The funding source would be a 0.5% sales tax.

Once again, the screwing gets deeper. Maybe I should hire Moron Pundit to put together a way-NSFW graphic.

Revisions/extensions (9:12 am 6/14/2009) - I have to thank Lance Burri for the Rule 2 boost.

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