The gist: Sen. John Lehman got his cake and ate it too. Lehman fought against a sales tax increase to pay for the KRM commuter rail line to connect Kenosha to Milwaukee with stops in Racine and Caledonia. He convinced the Democratic-controlled committee to reconsider a rental car tax as an alternative to the sales tax.
The committee voted for the plan, approving the $16 rental car tax, which would be indexed annually to the consumer price index.
The Joint Finance Committee first voted to remove Racine and Kenosha from the regional transit authority included in Gov. Jim Doyle's budget. The committee voted to allow Milwaukee County to create a 1 percent sales tax to pay for transit, parks, cultural services and emergency medical services.
It also created a regional transit authority to manage KRM. The RTA would include Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties and use the rental car tax to pay for the rail line. The RTA, which would be appointed by mayors and County Board presidents (not County Executives - a move to prevent Scott Walker and Bill McReynolds from making appointments), could also issue up to $50 million in bonds.
Lehman told WisPolitics the compromise allowed communities to choose their own way to pay for commuter rail and buses.
"What we're seeing now is the result of communities making it very clear what they want to do in their own sweet way about transit" Lehman said.