UPDATED, 01/11: The reaction to Vos' proposal was chilly enough to reverse global warming. "If you were trying to author a bill that would not succeed, that's maybe how you would draft it," said Karl Ostby, RTA chairman, as quoted in the Journal Times. Dave Eberle, RAMAC chairman, said, "Most people in the room were fairly disappointed."
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"Many people think the answer to Racine's future is a train," State Rep. Robin Vos said today. "I have not said KRM would not be a good thing ... the only thing I've said is that the funding mechanism was wrong."
With that preamble, Vos, R-63rd Assembly District -- characterized by some as the Darth Vader who single-handedly killed the Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee rail initiative -- announced his plan to fund KRM: a sales-tax-supported Regional Transit Authority. As opposed to the $13 car rental tax plan that was effectively pronounced truly and fully dead earlier this week.
Vos is meeting tomorrow with the boards of directors of the Racine County Economic Development Corporation (RCEDC), Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce (RAMAC) and Forward Racine to get their input -- and support? -- for his proposal, a bill still being drafted that he hopes to introduce in the Legislature next week.
The as-yet-untitled bill (Vos laughed when I suggested it be called the "Robin Vos Doesn't Really Hate Trains Act") would allow the establishment of Regional Transit Authorities anywhere in Wisconsin, if local voters supported the idea through a referendum. "This is not necessarily the easy way," he said, defining that "easy way" as "just allowing a politician to raise taxes."
Vos' RTA proposal "would allow communities to band together" in two ways. He outlined a two-tier system:
Tier 1 would allow two communities to put a sales tax in place to support a "mobile" transportation system -- i.e., buses running between two cities.
Tier 2 would allow "fixed mode" transportation systems -- i.e., rail on a fixed route -- to be supported. This larger, more capital-intensive plan would require a population threshhold of at least 375,000 with favorable votes in at least five communities, each with at least 10,000 citizens. (Because Milwaukee County already has a Regional Transit Authority, it would be counted as one entity of the necessary five, Vos said.)
Details still to be worked out include the wording of the referendum question, Vos said.
Vos took issue with those who say KRM would, single-handedly, lead to economic recovery. "To grow the economy, you need college-educated families with children." And when you ask those families what they want, he said, they respond: "a safe community and a good school system."
"KRM is a single part of an economic strategy," Vos said, disagreeing with "those who say it's all we need."