State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
One of the major issues of contention during the 2009-10 general legislative session was the creation of regional transit authorities (RTAs).
The concept of RTAs is seriously flawed. RTAs are managed by members that are unelected and unaccountable to the taxpaying public. They enjoy wide powers. An RTA may operate a transportation system or provide for its operation by contracting with a public or private organization and impose a half percent sales tax. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that a half-cent sales tax increase to fund RTAs would cost about $172 per household a year.
As legislators deliberated during the 2009-11 state budget process, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee early on the morning of May 1, 2009 while most of
The five members of the board that would set a one percent sales tax increase would not be elected by the voting public, and thus, would not have accountability for their actions. They would be appointed by the Milwaukee County Board chairman, the
The JFC also voted 12-4 to establish a regional transit authority in
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “The structure would ensure that local officials with Democratic ties would get to make appointments to the board while those with Republican links would not. For instance, Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser, a former legislator, would get to make an appointment while Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker – a Republican running for governor next year – would not.”
The Joint Finance Committee also rejected the idea of a requirement that light rail could be built in
The final version of the 2009-11 state budget authorized the creation of RTAs in southeastern
That was 2009. During February 2010, I was extremely disappointed that the Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines to approve spending over $800 million in federal stimulus money to construct a high-speed rail line between
It is astonishing that the cost of the rail line is equivalent to two Miller Parks. You may recall the contentious debate about
Subsidizing this massive project will jeopardize current and future Wisconsin projects across the state that have been put on hold due to the state Transportation Fund deficit that is exacerbated by Governor Doyle’s numerous Transportation Fund raids.
Job creation claims made by proponents are dubious. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “Only 55 permanent jobs would be created to operate and maintain the trains, tracks and stations, starting in 2013, the application says.”
According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, “Approval of the Governor’s request for $810 million for the
As the legislature rushed to get bills approved before the session ended, a state Assembly panel passed a revamped regional transit bill April 1, 2010, advancing the process of creating an authority that could levy taxes for bus and rail transit in
I oppose the creation of boards or authorities with appointed members having taxing power. This is taxation without representation. The power to tax should only come from elected representation. I vehemently opposed these new taxes and RTAs. Our taxes are high enough.
Governor Doyle has stated that there is support for a sales tax increase to fund transit. Pointing to the results of an advisory November 2008 referendum in
According to the Milwaukee County Board of Election Commissioners’ Fall Election Recap of November 2008, the one percent sales tax referendum was approved by 51.97 percent of the voters. The referendum was rejected in every single ward in the following communities: Bayside, Brown Deer,
So, to recap, at the close of the general legislative session April 22, 2010, legislation that would have created RTAs in southeast
A mandate for tax increases for a dramatic expansion of transit does not exist. Rail systems costing billions of dollars are too expensive, fail to attract new riders, and fail to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. While I am very pleased RTA legislation died, I am extremely disappointed that what angry taxpayers call “the choo choo train” was approved and essentially rammed down the throats of Wisconsinites.