From an article by Larry Sandler of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
South Milwaukee – Milwaukee County could create its own transit authority, funded by a sales tax of up to a half-cent, to take over the county’s cash-strapped bus system, under proposed legislation unveiled Tuesday.
The full 0.5% sales tax would bring in about $60 million a year, or roughly $20 million more than the Milwaukee County Transit System would need to end property tax support and meet its funding needs, bus system spokeswoman Jacqueline Janz said. The new transit authority would be required to use the additional money to restore bus routes cut since 2001, to increase service or to reduce fares.
Planners have warned the bus system would face a major service cut without new state or local funding to replace property taxes.
After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Gov. Jim Doyle announced the plan at a news conference at Bucyrus International corporate headquarters. He was backed by the chief executive officers of some of the region’s largest corporations, who said the southeastern Wisconsin economy depends on reliable transit that isn’t funded by property taxes.
The Milwaukee County authority would be one of several temporary local transit authorities that eventually could merge into the existing Southeastern Regional Transit Authority, which oversees the planned KRM Commuter Link rail line. Like Milwaukee County, other county or municipal governments that run bus systems could form temporary transit authorities in Kenosha, Racine, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties, which would sunset if not merged into the regional agency.
Outside Milwaukee County, the local transit authorities could be funded by local vehicle registration fees, hotel taxes or property taxes contributed by local governments, but they could not impose sales taxes without voter approval in a referendum.
From an article by Stephanie Jones in the Journal Times (Racine):
[Racine Mayor John] Dickert stood with the governor Tuesday in supporting new transit legislation.
“If we as elected officials are going to rebuild our cities, we must start with a solid foundation,” Dickert said. “That foundation can begin with a regional transit system.”